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A date with Gary Barlow's Calendar Girls as Fern Britton, Denise Welch and co come to Dartford

PUBLISHED: 13:24 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:08 22 February 2019

Back LtoR Fern Britton, Ruth Madoc, Rebecca Storm, Gary Barlow, Denise Welch, Front Anna-Jane Casey and Tim Firth. Photo: Matt Crockett

Back LtoR Fern Britton, Ruth Madoc, Rebecca Storm, Gary Barlow, Denise Welch, Front Anna-Jane Casey and Tim Firth. Photo: Matt Crockett

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It was the hit that should never have happened, but Calendar Girls is just that.

Back LtoR Fern Britton, Ruth Madoc, Rebecca Storm, Gary Barlow, Denise Welch, Front Anna-Jane Casey and Tim Firth. Photo: Matt CrockettBack LtoR Fern Britton, Ruth Madoc, Rebecca Storm, Gary Barlow, Denise Welch, Front Anna-Jane Casey and Tim Firth. Photo: Matt Crockett

Now audiences in Dartford can make a date with the stage musical.

It was innocent enough – middle aged Women’s Institute ladies wanted to raise money for charity when a husband died from cancer.

Posing for a calendar was a great idea – doing it while naked with props covering the naughty bits sent the world into a tizz.

It sold by the lorryload, sparking a movie and a musical.

The latter arrives at The Orchard, Dartford, on March 5.

From the creative minds of Take That’s Gary Barlow and his good mate Tim Firth, the northern lads have done the ladies proud.

And even they are somewhat stunned by its success.

Gary said after the initial run in the capital: “I think we all left London a little bit confused. Everyone who saw it loved it, but we never quite found our audience in London. So we took a good look at the piece and Tim and I shut ourselves away for a couple of months to streamline it.”

Tim added: “It endures not because the calendar is now part of English history, or because of the disease it was inspired by. Even more common than the disease itself is the need to find a way of combating adversity in life, be that illness, depression, family or social adversity.”

He goes on: “This musical is a medicine for all of those issues because at its heart it is comedy. The most potent weapon in the calendar and the musical is using comedy to fight that which oppresses you emotionally, and also to claw your way back out of a situation you are in. I firmly believe that. When you lose your sense of humour all is a lost.”

It is the aural impact that has set this musical stage show apart from the film.

Gary said: “There is much more we can tell now because the music becomes an accelerator of story; it allows you to say much more than you can with a play and allows you to be faithful to the characters and for them to

speak directly to the audience. You have a whole new set of tools with a musical.

“Music is a very potent force emotionally and you can use it to counterpoint, too. It keeps all the emotions airborne. The songs are seamless; they lift you up like a magic carpet and that is very exciting for me.”

Both mates hail from Yorkshire and have known each other forever.

Tim said: “Working with Gary feels effortless. We have the same work ethic and we’re from the same stock.

“Our backgrounds and parents have instilled in us immense gratitude for

the position we find ourselves in. We are doing our hobbies for a job and we never take that for granted.”

He has a knack for writing parts for women. Tim said: “I had a peer group of mates where there was no division between boys and girls; we were a

gang. We treated girls with the same lack of air and grace as we did the boys. So yes, I wrote my mates, my mum, my wife. I treated them with the same boxing gloves because we all have faults. It works because it is honest.”

Gary agreed, adding: “It does and we are really looking forward to taking it back to where it began: the regions. After all, it is a regional story.”

The show stars Fern Britton as Marie; Anna-Jane Casey as Annie; Sara Crowe as Ruth; Karen Dunbar as Cora; Ruth Madoc as Jessie; Rebecca Storm as Chris; and Denise Welch as Celia.

It’s at The Orchard, Dartford March 5 and 16. Tickets 01322 220000 or r www.orchardtheatre.co.uk.

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