Gary Bar­low and Denise Welch talk about Cal­en­darGirls–TheMu­si­cal

We chat to Gary Bar­low and Denise Welch about the lat­est ren­di­tion of Cal­en­darGirl­sTheMu­si­cal and how it’s not ac­tu­ally all about bare bums…

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Al­most 20 years ago, the York­shire ladies of Ryl­ston & District WI caused an up­roar when they de­cided to raise funds for char­ity by strip­ping off and pos­ing naked for a cal­en­dar.

Their “al­ter­na­tive” cal­en­dar sold by the lor­ry­load all over the world, trig­gered thou­sands of copy­cat char­ity cal­en­dars and in­spired a best-sell­ing book and an award-win­ning stage play and film.

And now Gary Bar­low and Tim Firth, writer of the film and the stage play, have writ­ten the mu­si­cal ver­sion of the ladies’ story, which is cur­rently en­joy­ing sell-out per­for­mances in the­atres all over the UK.

“Tim asked me to work on Cal­en­dar Girl­sTheMu­si­cal with him about seven years ago and my ini­tial re­ac­tion was a very def­i­nite ‘No’,” says Gary, who I’m in­ter­view­ing in Burn­sall Vil­lage Hall, meeting place of Ryl­ston & District WI and scene of the fa­mous pho­to­shoot.

“How­ever, Tim per­sisted and, af­ter my first visit to meet the orig­i­nal Cal­en­dar Girls, I gave in!”

As well as be­ing a renowned writer, Tim Firth is one of Gary Bar­low’s best friends. “We met over 25 years ago, when I was 15 and Tim was about 20,” re­calls Gary. “I was ap­pear­ing on a tele­vi­sion tal­ent show – ASongFor Christ­mas – which Tim was work­ing on dur­ing the univer­sity hol­i­days.

“We dis­cov­ered we were from the same vil­lage in the north of Eng­land – Frod­sham – and we’ve been friends ever since. In fact, our friend­ship is piv­otal to Cal­en­darGirl­sTheMu­si­cal; it’s a show where friend­ship is at the cen­tre of ev­ery­thing.”

The orig­i­nal Cal­en­dar Girls had the idea of a taste­ful nude cal­en­dar to raise funds af­ter the death of John Barker, hus­band of An­gela, a stal­wart of Ryl­ston & District WI.

“This show isn’t about grief – or nu­dity,” Gary tells me. “It’s about hope, unity and the power of friend­ship.”

Gary and Tim called their mu­si­cal TheGirls but, de­spite suc­cess­ful sea­sons in Leeds, Manch­ester and Lon­don, they felt it was time for a rewrite, new songs and a new name.

“I lost count of how of­ten I was asked, ‘Why didn’t you call it Cal­en­dar Girls–TheMu­si­cal?’” G laughs Gary.

Gary’s im­mensely proud of the show aand has been known to sneak in and sit iin the back row. “It’s just a riot,” he says. “The au­di­ence love it and the cast love it.”

How­ever, don’t ex­pect to see Gary in a mmu­si­cal. “Even when I was young, I ccouldn’t have done it,” he says. “Not only ddo they sing in time and in tune, they also aact – and they do all this twice a day, six ddays a week for months and months. I’m hhappy to stick to writ­ing the mu­sic.”

The na­tional tour be­gan in Leeds in AAu­gust when, de­spite the stel­lar cast, tthe orig­i­nal Cal­en­darGirls were the stars oof the pre­mière. “They come to ev­ery oopen­ing,” laughs Gary. “It’s lovely to hhave them around.”

Denise is off on tour un­til April

At the Olivier Awards the show re­ceived five nom­i­na­tions

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