Take That: Gary Barlow’s Calendar Girls musical set for world premiere in Leeds

Gary Barlow at the first showing of The Girls, the musical based on the Calendar Girls, at Burnsall Village Hall. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Gary Barlow at the first showing of The Girls, the musical based on the Calendar Girls, at Burnsall Village Hall. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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The world premiere of a new musical penned in part by pop superstar Gary Barlow will take place in Leeds on November 14.

Ahead of rehearsals for a new Take That tour, Gary Barlow was in Burnsall near Skipton to announce new musical The Girls today, which will open to the public at Leeds Grand Theatre later this year.

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the original Calendar Girls. Picture by Matt Crockett.

Gary Barlow, Tim Firth and the original Calendar Girls. Picture by Matt Crockett.

The musical received a first showing at Burnsall village hall in front of the people who inspired the story today – the women of the Rylstone WI Institute who stripped for a calendar and have now raised almost £4m for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

Barlow, who has written the music for the musical penned by his childhood friend Tim Firth, the man behind the film Calendar Girls, said at the launch: “What better place to make this announcement than this village hall where it all began?”

The invited audience included people from Burnsall, who had no idea that Barlow and Firth were waiting in the wings to take the stage at the end of the first ever performance of The Girls.

Barlow, like Firth born in Frodsham, Cheshire, gave his seal of approval to the Yorkshire Dales town.

He said: “It’s been beautiful for us this weekend.

“The idea when we started with this, we said if we can’t play it in a village hall we shouldn’t put it on a stage.

“If it has to rely on big production, big band and lights, it shouldn’t exist, it should be able to exist on a stage with a piano and we’ve done it.

“We’ve come here to the place the story started; what a gorgeous town it is.”

Tim Firth, who began his career as a playwright at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, said he was looking forward to seeing the show open at Leeds Grand in November.

He said: “There’s been something very special about this weekend.

“It’s underway, it’s started and there’s something magic about that, announcing it in the village hall where the WI women used to do their own plays, their own amateur dramatics and we’re here.”

The show will play at Leeds Grand from November 14 to December 12 and then transfer to The Lowry in Salford in January 2016. Producer David Pugh suggested the musical might complete a journey from ‘Burnsall to Broadway’.

Barlow said: “We want theatres to look and feel like this, the whole idea of the musical is that it is a village hall musical, a town, about a little place where there’s mums dads, kids that’s what the story is about.”

Barlow, who has been friends with Firth for 25 years, said: “I watched the film and it was incredibly moving; the play even more so, and our goal is to make the music represent this moving story.”

At yesterday’s performance to give their seal of approval to the new show were the son and daughter of John Baker, the man whose death inspired the original calendar, Matthew Baker and Rachel White.

Having never spoken publicly about the work their father’s death inspired, they said they were delighted to have a pop superstar write the music for the story. Ms White said: “We met Gary and it’s been strange to think he’s been writing stories about my mum. We’re huge fans. Dad would be very proud.”

Tickets for the Leeds Grand Theatre performances are available from tomorrow at 10am on 0844 8482700.