Calendar Girls at The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
3 - 7 October 2023

Bill Kenwright Ltd announces the cast for its new production of Calendar Girls the Musical, written 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.

Tanya Franks, Maureen Nolan, Lyn Paul, Amy Robbins, Paula Tappenden, Marti Webb, and Honeysuckle Weeks will bare all as the group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire town who set about creating a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

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 witty 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 schoolteacher. 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), 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 Doolittle in Pygmalion (Chichester Festival Theatre), the UK premiere These Shining Lives and The Best Man (West End, Playhouse).  


Show: The Calendar Girls

Dates: 3 to 7 October 2023

The Alexandra, Birmingham

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