Take That star Gary Barlow and his hit musical collaborator Tim Firth are both looking forward to returning to Sheffield with their new production of Calendar Girls.
The duo were speaking last week at a special public dress rehearsal of their show at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, the first stop on a new tour.
A packed house gave a standing ovation to a cast that includes TV stars Fern Britton, Denise Welch and Ruth Madoc, alongside musical actress Anna-Jane Casey, who’s starred at the Crucible in Annie Get Your Gun.
The show tells the famous story of the North Yorkshire Women’s Institute members who decided to get their kit off for a saucy nude charity calendar to raise money for their local hospital after one of the group lost her husband to leukemia.
The idea caught the popular imagination, making them global stars.
Six original Calendar Girls took a bow on stage alongside the cast, Tim and Gary and the show’s producers.
Their story was portrayed in a hit 2003 film that starred Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Annette Crosbie, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton and Geraldine James. Tim Firth adapted the movie screenplay he co-wrote for the highly successful stage play.
Tim said: “I got involved, having originally turned it down. I was asked to do the movie at the very start by the producers. I said, ‘You should get a woman to write it. You need to win the trust of the women’.
“They came back and said we’re having trouble with the story. We’ve got nothing and we’ve got two weeks to do it.
“I did the main 60 per cent of it and just started to write without thinking. It’s a good way to write.”
Tim added: “It then became a massive part of my life. After the film we went out and did the stage play.
“The producer said, ‘Are you absolutely certain you don’t think it’s a musical?’ And suddenly another story appeared.
“I went to Gary and said, ‘Come and see the play and tell me what you think’.”
The duo, who also worked together on Take That musical The Band, have been friends for a long time.
Gary said: “I met him when I was 15. He lives about a mile from my mum. We have this incredible link. I used to invite him to come and watch Take That shows.
“He’d say, ‘I’ve got a movie on’ and we used to go to Cheshire Oaks to see it. We’ve appreciated each others’ art for many years but never worked on anything together.”
Gary continued: “He took me to see the play and I loved it but I said, ‘I don’t write musicals. I wouldn’t know how how to do what you do’.
“He said, ‘You write the songs and I’ll make the story work with the music. I set about it for two years”.
He added: “I’ve loved every part of it, it’s been really exciting for us.”
Both Tim and Gary are huge fans of the Calendar Girls. Tim said: “It’s an extraordinary thing for them after they lost their husband and friend. They did this extraordinary thing, setting the whole idea of nude charity calendars in motion.”
He said the story captures the imagination because it’s WI members taking the plunge. “It’s not quite the same as a lot of solicitors doing calendars. It’s the right people at the right time.”
Video: Go to www.thestar.co.uk to see Gary and Tim talk about the show and coming to Sheffield.
Calendar Girls the Musical comes to the Lyceum, Sheffield on April 2 to 13, 2019. Tickets are on sale now at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk