Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s journey with Calendar Girls The Musical

Tim Firth and Gary Barlow

Tim Firth has spoken about working with Gary Barlow to revamp his hit musical Calendar Girls.

The musical is now on tour, heading to Woking’s New Victoria Theatre from 18 – 23 March.

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 written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, which coined the term “craughing” – the act of crying and laughing at the same time!

Tim Firth’s involvement with Calendar Girls began with the original movie 20 years ago and along with his writing partner of the musical, Gary Barlow, has reworked this new production ahead of an extensive UK tour.

Speaking about the new musical and the inspiration behind its reimagining, Tim shares: “There was something in the heart of lockdown that was all about time; about suddenly being dumped with a container load of it, about managing that, not resenting it, realising you were lucky to have it and not to waste it, if you were well enough to enjoy it.

Calendar Girls 2024 tour cast group photo

“Of course, it’s only looking back that we can get that kind of perspective. For the pair of us it just presented as an inexplicable urge to DO stuff; to write, to plot new work and to re-examine work that already existed. This led us to new projects such as the one man show A Different Stage, and it also turned our heads back towards Calendar Girls the Musical.”

Tim continues: “Now, by this time it was a good few years since we had written the show and there was justifiable trepidation in returning to the project. After all it had been in the West End, done a national tour and was due to be performed by many companies around the UK if and when lockdown finished.

“However, that UK was going to have changed. The world had. It was a time of global reboot. The planet had been attacked by a unilateral force in a way that had never really happened before and the indiscriminate nature of that assault had done something fundamental to our perception of boundaries. Or borders. Of sticking to parameters that already existed.

“A strange sense of liberation came out of the confinement that meant we thought – whatever you’re thinking, just try it. Take the chance. Have a fresh look. Take the jump.”

Tim says he and Gary rewrote the show “like we had nothing to lose”.

He recalls: “In a sense we were led by the words of Dare, one of the songs in the show; something about taking a jump without the fear meaning you stand a better chance of making a landing on the other side.

“Well, this is where we landed, relieved it was all still intact, grateful to have a producer willing to mount it and excited at the prospect of reimagining the staging and the sound of a now-familiar story. During previews our agent Alan texted, having noticed it was fifteen years since the first night of the stage version of Calendar Girls.

“I said I can’t believe all these years later we’re still here rewriting it. But to be honest it’s a privilege that we are, and that the story is so unique in that regard.”

Tim concludes: “The film is twenty years old this year, the real girls more than twenty years older but their story, like their sunflowers, seems to keep reseeding of its own accord; and when it does, the flower is always, always the same. It’s only the shape that changes.”

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About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.


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