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…
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