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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Calendar Girls returns to the Liverpool Empire

Bill Kenwright Ltd announces the cast for its new production of Calendar Girls the Musical, writen by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth including recent stars from Coronation Street and EastEnders (Amy Robbins and Tanya Franks), three recording stars whose hit records have approached nearly 70 million in sales (Lyn Paul with The New Seekers, Maureen Nolan with The Nolans and musical theatre star Marti Webb), the co-star of one of TV’s most popular series of the last twenty years (Honeysuckle Weeks of Foyles War), and Paula Tappenden star of Blood Brothers. 

Five of the announced leading ladies have also starred as Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers during its record-breaking West End run and across the UK on tour.

Calendar Girls returns to the Liverpool Empire

This brand-new production sees this incredible true story continue to bloom, with a reimagined book and new music bringing the joy to life. 

Tim Firth, co-writer of the show, says:

“Pre-pandemic I had been preparing the musical for a foreign production which was of course then postponed. When the skies cleared and a new production in the UK was proposed I looked back and thought, ‘This is the version we ought to stage’. The story and songs, a little like the real world, had been thrown in the air and come back slightly different. What we had in our hands lay somewhere between the original play and the original musical and it seemed right for a time when sunlight, optimism and humour seemed more necessary than ever. Like the calendar itself, it seemed that something dark had created something unexpectedly bright.”

Gary Barlow, co-writer of the show, says:

“I am delighted to be working on this new production of Calendar Girls and getting ready for the joy, the laughter, and the nostalgia to take the stage again. It’s been 20 years this year since the film was released, and around 10 years since I first saw Tim’s play with my mum Marjorie. We’ve already had a fantastic time in the rehearsal room workshopping the show and weaving in new music, reworked songs and reimagining the book. We cannot wait to see the way these incredible leading ladies bring the story to bloom as we head out on tour later this year.”

Tanya Franks stars as Annie Clarke, the wity compassionate sidekick, and who’s husband’s illness is the catalyst in this story. She is best known for her role as Rainie Cross in EastEnders, as well as appearing in Family Affairs, Holby City, Doctors, BBC Two mocumentary The Cup, Broadchurch, and many more. She was nominated at the British Comedy Awards in 2009 for her work on Pulling, which gained a BAFTA nomination for best comedy series and won The South Bank Show award for Best Comedy. 

Maureen Nolan will star as the big-hearted Ruth. She is perhaps best known with her sisters in the singing group The Nolans, who sold more than 30 million records worldwide. She and her sisters also hold the Guinness World Record for the most siblings to play the same role in a musical, as Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers. TV credits include The Nolans Go Cruising and At Home with The Nolans. Her stage credits include Stardust (National tour), Girl’s Behind, Mum’s The Word, The Naked Truth, Footloose (National tour), Over the Rainbow – The Eva Cassidy Story (National tour), Menopause the Musical, and several major pantomimes, including at Liverpool Empire, Blackpool Opera House, and the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. 

Lyn Paul returns to the stage as Jessie, the frank and fearless school teacher. She was a member of the international chart-topping pop-group the New Seekers in the early 1970s and is hailed as one of the definitive Mrs Johnstones in Blood Brothers, having played the role on the West End and in venues across the country for nearly 25 years. Her stage credits include Taboo (Venue Theatre), 3 Footloose (UK Tour, Playhouse Theatre), Rhinestone Mondays (National tour), and Rufus Norris’ Cabaret (National tour). Her TV Credits include Emmerdale, Holby City, Doctors, and In Deep. 

Amy Robbins stars as Chris Harper, the excitable, irrepressible leader of the gang, who was played by Helen Mirren in the film. Her television credits include EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty, Doctors, World’s End, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale and The Royal. In 2023, she has joined the cast of Coronation Street playing Christina Boyd. Robbins has also graced the stage as Mrs Johnstone at the Phoenix Theatre and across the UK on tour. 

Blood Brothers aficionados will recognise Paula Tappenden who steps into the role of intrepid Women’s Institute leader Marie. She has starred in the roles of both Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, on the West End and on tour for many years and has appeared in touring productions of Black Coffee, The Exorcist, and in pantomimes across the country. 

Musical theatre star Marti Webb will play Celia, the glamourous and sassy former airhostess. She is known for her roles in Evita, Cats, Tell Me on a Sunday, Godspell, The King and I, Annie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Half a Sixpence, and The Glenn Miller Story. She joined the cast of Blood Brothers as Mrs Johnstone in 2008 both on tour and on the West End. She has featured on numerous classic music theatre cast recordings and compilations and has released 13 solo albums. 

The co-star of one of TV’s most popular series of the last twenty years, Honeysuckle Weeks will play Cora, the rebellious musician. She starred opposite Michael Kitchen in ITV’s wartime drama Foyle’s War as Samantha Stewart. Other credits include Midsomer Murders, Fortunes of War (Radio 4), Death in Paradise, and Frankie Drake Mysteries. Her stage credits include A Daughter’s A Daughter at Trafalgar Studios, Eliza Doolitle in Pygmalion (Chichester Festival Theatre), the UK premiere These Shining Lives and The Best Man (West End, Playhouse). 

The tour will continue across 2024, with further dates and casting to be announced. 

Calendar Girls follows these extraordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute, prompted to create this calendar following the death of a much-loved husband, to raise funds for charity. But upturning preconceptions is a dangerous business and none of the women are prepared for the emotional and personal ramifications they will face, as the fabulous and funny calendar brings each woman unexpectedly into flower. 

The true story of the Calendar Girls launched a global phenomenon: a million copycat calendars, a record-breaking movie, now celebrating 20 years since its release, the fastest-selling stage play in British theatre history, and now a musical writen by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, which coined the term “craughing” – the act of crying and laughing at the same time! 

With unforgetable songs, every performance continues to add to the nearly £6 million already raised for charity and prove that there is no such thing as an ordinary woman. 

This tour is proud to be supporting Blood Cancer UK, the charity dedicated to funding research into all blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, as well as offering information and support to blood cancer patients. 

Gary Barlow, famed singer-songwriter has enjoyed tremendous success throughout his career; as a solo artist and with international pop sensation Take That, three years as a judge on ITV’s The X Factor, and composer/lyricist of the hit musical adaptation Calendar Girls the Musical. With hits 4 like Back for Good, Patience, Rule the World, Shine, Pray, Love Won’t Wait, The Flood, Shame, and many more, Barlow has a world class back catalogue that rivals any pop songwriter. Six-time Ivor Novello Award-Winner from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, Barlow has written fourteen number-one singles, and twenty-four top ten hits. As a solo artist, he has had three number-one singles, six top-ten singles and two number-one albums, and has additionally had seventeen top-five hits, twelve number-one singles and eight number-one albums with Take That. He has sold more than 50 million records worldwide. 

In theatre, Barlow wrote the revised score for Finding Neverland, which was nominated in the 2015 Drama Desk Awards and Drama League Awards while on Broadway. With Tim Firth, he co-wrote Greatest Days (previously titled The Band) which toured across the UK and Ireland in 2017 and 2018, before making its West End debut at Theatre Royal Haymarket for a limited run. The film version is now playing in cinemas across the country. 

Tim Firth’s theatre credits include This Is My Family (Sheffield Crucible, UK Theatre Award Best New Musical), Neville’s Island (Nottingham Playhouse and West End, Evening Standard & Olivier nomination, MEN Award), The Safari Party (Stephen Joseph, Scarborough and Hampstead), the musical Our House with the band Madness (West End, Olivier Award Best Musical), The Flint Street Nativity (Liverpool Playhouse) and Sign of The Times (UK tour and West End). His play Calendar Girls (Chichester Festival Theatre, Noel Coward Theatre West End) broke all British records for a professional and amateur play, was nominated for an Olivier and won the WhatsOnStage Best Comedy Award. 

Calendar Girls the Musical, co-writen with Gary Barlow, opened at Leeds Opera House, and transferred to the Phoenix Theatre in the West End, winning a WhatsOnStage Award and an Olivier nomination, and his musical The Band (Manchester Opera House, West End) won the MEN Best Musical Award. Tim’s latest musical Now Is Good opened at Chester Storyhouse and was nominated for the 2022 UK Theatre Award. 2022 also saw Tim collaborate with Gary Barlow on the show A Different Stage (Duke of York’s Theatre). Tim’s film credits include Blackball, Calendar Girls (British Comedy Award), Kinky Boots (Best International Film, Florida FF) and The Wedding Video. Jonathan O’Boyle is an award winning director – he won Best Director of a Musical and Best Musical Production at the 2021 Off-West End Awards for his production of The Last Five Years and his production of Hair won the 2018 WhatsOnStage award for Best Off-West End production. His directing credits include The Last Five Years (Garrick Theatre, West End/Southwark Playhouse); Wish You Were Dead and Looking Good Dead (UK Tour/Peter James Productions); Hair (Hope Mill Theatre/The Vaults/UK & European Tours. WhatsOnStage Award for Best Off-West End Production); Top Hat (The Mill at Sonning); A Guide for the Homesick, Rasheeda Speaking and Bash Latterday Plays (Trafalgar Studios); Proud (Turbine Theatre); The View Upstairs (Soho Theatre); Rain Man (UK Tour/Bill Kenwright Ltd); Aspects of Love 

and Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre/Southwark Playhouse); Cruel Intentions (Bill Kenwright Ltd); This House (Headlong/UK Tour, co-directed with Jeremy Herrin); Dear Brutus (Southwark Playhouse); The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit (Hope Mill Theatre); Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (Cadogan Hall); Peter Pan (Park Theatre); Four Play and Sense of an Ending (Theatre503); The Surplus and All The Ways To Say Goodbye (Young Vic). As associate director, his credits include An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre); The Judas Kiss (Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York/Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto); The Scottsboro 5 Boys (Young Vic) and is currently working on productions of Jekyll & Hyde and Drag Addict in additional to Calendar Girls the Musical. Jonathan trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and Birkbeck, University of London where he graduated with an MFA in Theatre Directing. He was previously Trainee Associate Director at Chichester Festival Theatre and Associate Director at Theatre503. Alongside his directing work, Jonathan is the Director of the School of Musical Theatre at ArtsEd. 

Calendar Girls the Musical (previously titled The Girls) was originally produced by David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers and the Shubert Organisation and is based on the record breaking play Calendar Girls by Tim Firth, and the 2003 motion picture of the same name, written by Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi. 

Based on the play CALENDAR GIRLS written by Tim Firth, and the motion picture CALENDAR GIRLS written by Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi. 

You can book your tickets here.

READ MORE: SMASH-HIT MUSICAL SIX RETURNS TO LIVERPOOL

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