Calendar Girls comes to Ipswich Regent

A BOX office smash hit about a group of ordinary women from Yorkshire is set to come to an Ipswich stage later this year.

Tim Firth’s popular movie Calendar Girls was adapted for the stage and has gone on to become the most successful play ever to tour the UK, taking more at the box office than the film.

The story follows a group of women from an ordinary Yorkshire Women’s Institute who spark a global phenomenon by persuading one another to pose for a charity calendar with a difference.

When interest snowballs, the calendar girls find themselves revealing more than they’d ever planned.

The film became the number one grossing film in the UK on its release in 2003.

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The tour coming to the Regent Theatre in Ipswich in November is the final one before the amateur rights are released next year.

The star-studded cast includes celebrated actress, TV presenter, writer and everybody’s favourite Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham.

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She’s reprising the role of Chris - played in the movie by Dame Helen Mirren - which she first created on stage in 2008, heading up the pre-West End tour and the West End production.

Lynda went on to play her on UK tours too and can’t wait to return to the role one last time from August.

“I love doing it. It’s a tribute to the play that I could bear to think of doing it more than once. It’s been wonderful. In all my 40 years I’ve probably worked with more actresses in the last year than in my entire career,” she laughs.

Among those joining her on the next tour will be Rula Lenska, Debbie Chazen, former Strictly Come Dancing professional Camilla Dallerup, June Watson, Ruth Madoc, Bruno Langley and Joe McGann.

“It’s a lovely cast. I’ve got the lovely Jan Harvey playing Annie and Jennifer Ellison who’s playing Celia in the production I’m doing at the moment. Tim Firth has rewritten Cora to embody a younger mum, so Jennifer’s coming to play her which will be a fantastic challenge.

“I think it shows the strength of the play that good actors want to do it. It lends itself to so many different interpretations which is why when they release the rights for the amateur side of it it’ll be fantastic, because they’ll be people all over England taking their clothes off,” she laughs.

On the subject of those infamous photographic scenes.

“It’s like a ballet and great fun to do. With each new cast you live through what all these actresses live through, from the horror when they realise they’re going to have take their clothes off to the liberation once you’ve done it.”

Lynda puts the play’s appeal down to the fact a lot of people can relate to the true story of the effect cancer can have.

“Unfortunately, one in three of us will have cancer,” she adds.

“The fact these real women got out there - lots of people have done calendars since, but they were really the first people to do it - I think it’s a combination of the power of the story and the ridiculousness of these women taking their clothes off and going on to make so much money.”

Calendar Girls is at the Ipswich Regent from November 7-12. Tickets go on sale from 10am tomorrow.

“We’re committed to presenting the very best productions at the Regent and I’m certain you’ll agree the cast of Calendar Girls is absolutely superb,” said the theatre’s general manager David Mansfield.

“The show is experiencing phenomenal demand for tickets, selling out all over the country, so we are looking forward to some fantastic performances this autumn.”

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