Sheffield Lyceum theatre date for Calendar Girls musical

The cast of Calendar Girls The Musical.
The cast of Calendar Girls The Musical.

Over a cuppa with the cast of Calendar Girls the Musical, Vicky Edwards discovers that Fern Britton’s intuition sometimes malfunctions and that Gary Barlow and Tim Firth are to musical comedy what Mary Berry is to baking!

Thrilled to be one of the girls, but keeping her kit firmly ON as Marie, presenter and novelist Fern Britton cheerfully admits that she initially told her agent on first instinct that it wasn’t for her.

“And then came the call saying that Gary Barlow would like to have a cup of coffee and a chat with me!” she exclaims, eyes bright and smile wide. “Suddenly I found myself in a room reading the script, with Gary, Tim Firth [writer], the producers and the casting director. And boy am I glad that they persisted!” she laughs.

“Never was I happier to be wrong about something. Some people don’t like musicals because of all the bursting into song, but with this you hardly know that a song has started until it’s halfway through. You are totally pulled along by your earholes and the songs really advance the story.

“Tim Firth is a god! He wrote the play, the movie and the musical and he’s like a Yorkshire Stephen Sondheim with the lyrics. As for Gary, he has written some incredible songs.”

You could say that Rebecca Storm was born to play Chris. The West End leading lady with a career spanning four decades was born and raised just a few miles from where the real Calendar Girls is set in North Yorkshire.

Based on the true story, Tim Firth’s film and his subsequent award-winning play, Calendar Girls, is a reworking of The Girls, which played to packed houses in the West End last year and is now returning home to Yorkshire to kick off a new UK and Ireland tour.

Loose Women’s Denise Welch stirs her tea and ponders on why the story has endured.

“It is about friendship and community and I think we all relate to that. Celia, my character, has been off as an air hostess and has always been looking for something more.

“When she comes back she realises that it was already there. As we get older we all realise that,” she says thoughtfully.

One of Scotland’s best-known comedy actors, Karen Dunbar, playing Cora, adds her voice to the melee. “I think people will go away thinking about the value and the shortness of life,” she says, pausing to allow Anna-Jane Casey (Annie) to jump in.

“And that positivity can come from awful situations and swing people into action,” interjects the doyenne of musicals, whose lead role in Annie, Get Your Gun was her fifth appearance at the Crucible. 

Best known as the first bride in the hit movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sara Crowe (playing Ruth) picks up the baton. “It is an instinctive thing to do, especially in situations that are terrible. Doing something positive becomes a survival mechanism.”

Are they worried about disrobing on stage – does the Great British Take Off hold any fear?

“We’re not prancing around like we’re in Hair!” laughs Rebecca Storm. “And it’s done with so much comedy.”

*Ruth Madoc is temporarily unable to appear due to injury.

Calendar Girls the Musical is at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield from April 2 to 13. Box office: www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk