David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers, the producers of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical comedy, CALENDAR GIRLS The Musical, based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play by Tim Firth, Calendar Girls, are delighted to announce that the production will return home to Yorkshire and open at the Leeds Grand Theatre on 16 August 2018 at the start of a new UK & Ireland Tour. The first 30 weeks are listed below, with further dates to be added.
The new tour will star novelist and television presenter Fern Britton, returning to the stage for the first time in 30 years, as Marie, Lorraine Bruce (Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate and theatre credits include Piafat The Donmar and Vernon God Little at the Young Vic) as Cora, Anna-Jane Casey (Billy Elliot on tour, Stepping Out in London’s West End, title role in Annie Get Your Gun at Sheffield Crucible) as Annie, Sara Crowe (West End roles include Bedroom Farce, The Real Inspector Hound & Black Comedy and Hay Fever) as Ruth, Ruth Madoc (Hi-De-Hi, Little Britain and Gypsy) as Jessie, Rebecca Storm (discovered by Willy Russell and cast as Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, and her handprints are part of the Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre Walk of Fame) as Chris and Denise Welch (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice,Coronation Street and Waterloo Road) as Celia.
The critically acclaimed and award-winning production played a six-month London season at the Phoenix Theatre last year, and, before that, this musical comedy played sold-out seasons in Leeds and Manchester.
Tim Firth said,
“To be given a chance to revisit CALENDAR GIRLS The Musical is a unique opportunity. Gary [Barlow] and I have been working away and, as the great Stephen Sondheim said, ‘MUSICAL COMEDIES AREN’T WRITTEN, THEY ARE REWRITTEN’.”
Gary Barlow added,
“What a phenomenal new cast we have. Tim and I sat in – and indeed played – on the auditions and have been so lucky to have put together such talented ladies.”
Gary Barlow and Tim Firth grew up in the same village in the North of England and have been friends for 25 years. With Take That, Gary has written and co-written 14 number one singles, has sold over 50 million records worldwide and is a six times Ivor Novello Award winner. Tim has won the Olivier Award and UK Theatre Award for Best New Musical, and the British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Film for Calendar Girls.
CALENDAR GIRLS THE MUSICAL is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands, and have to date raised almost £5million for Bloodwise. This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.
Bloodwise, the UK’s specialist blood cancer charity, will continue to receive monies from this production.
CALENDAR GIRLS The Musical is directed by Matt Ryan and designed by Robert Jones, with comedy staging by Jos Houben, movement by Lucy Hind and casting by Sarah Bird.
Taking a novel that’s been much loved for more than a century and turning it into a stage musical isn’t ever going to be an easy task. Stray too much from the original (Kenneth Grahame’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’) or tamper too much with the characters and you risk alienating generations of fans. Make it too safe and you end up leaving theatre goers disappointed.
Thankfully, this is a production that should delight everyone whether they’ve read the novel or not. With Julian Fellowes (book) paired with multi award winning Stiles & Drewe (music and lyrics), this was almost guaranteed to be a hit. Wind in the Willows is the third Fellowes penned musical now in the West End, alongside Half a Sixpence (also featuring the work of Stiles & Drewe) and School of Rock. This man is frustrating talented!
The staging at first looks quite simple. An opening set that seems to be just a series of concentric semi-circles; yet these make you focus immediately centre stage and there’s clearly a point to this. The sets throughout are designed almost symmetrically around the centre of the stage, key elements of the show (you’ll get to see everything from a horse drawn caravan to a canal barge) are strategically placed so your eye doesn’t wander. So although simple at first glance, Peter McKintosh has created one of the neatest set designs I’ve seen in a long time.
McKintosh is also responsible for costume and with it the specific challenges of the anthropomorphism of the characters. Again this has been achieved in quite a pleasantly simple, yet delightful way. There are thankfully few complete ‘animal costumes’ on show; the foxes garbed bizarrely as fox hunters are the nearest you get to this. The rest of the show’s fauna is mostly created through a range of subtle touches such as colouring or a tail or ears. An exception to this is the elaborate Gaultier-like spines of the scout uniform attired hedgehog family.
The plot adheres mostly to Grahame’s original with a little bit of artistic license thrown in (an online spat recently took place about Mr Otter and Portly now becoming Mrs Otter and Portia). It’s very easy to follow what’s going on so can easily be enjoyed by all the family. The action ranges from gentle meandering in boats to in-auditorium surprises.
Casting is near perfect; Rufus Hound as the pompous and impulsive Toad is outstanding throughout, Gary Wilmot as the slightly curmudgeonly Badger brings a dignified air to the show and Neil McDermott’s spiv like Chief Weasel (with curiously long tongue) was just a delight to watch (Weazelz rule!). The only character who didn’t really excite was Denise Welch’s Otter that just felt a little flat.
Stand out performance of the show goes to the double act of Mole (Craig Mather) and Ratty (Simon Lipkin). The pair worked perfectly together and deservedly got one of the biggest rounds of applause. Craig Mather, already having starred in Les Miserables is surely set to become one of our best musical theatre actors.
The songs are all enjoyable enough as you’d expect from Stiles & Drewe. The Wassailing Mice sung by the field mice on Mole’s house is charming and The Hedgehog’s Nightmare is a nice little comedy number; the other songs range from the gentle heart warming numbers such as A Friend is Still a Friend to the rousing likes of We’re Taking Over the Hall.
Further mentions must go to director Rachel Kavanaugh whose direction is top class and of course to the talented orchestra led by Toby Higgins. Finally, the other members of the cast for being weasally distinguished weasels, stotally different stoats alongside a myriad of other creatures.
Great songs, some sharp one liners, a few surprises here and there (generally from Mr Toad) and a plot that is easily followed by all (take note Bat Out of Hell) will make The Wind in the Willows appeal to all ages.