Calendar Girls the Musical – Leeds Grand

THE YEARS roll on, but there’s no stopping the triumphant tale of the Calendar Girls.

First there was the real-life event: Yorkshire Dales women stripping off for a nude calendar to raise money in memory of a member’s late husband. There was the film of the calendar, then the play, then Take That songwriter Gary Barlow teamed up with original scriptwriter Tim Firth to create a musical version.

And what a great musical it is, expertly blending the necessary ingredients for a memorable show: hilarious script, tuneful songs, unforgettable characters, tight plot, and the drawing-out of every possible emotion suggested by the story.

The core of this story is outdoorsman John Baker the great love between him and his wife, the joyous personality that lights-up his entire village, and the memory that lives on with everyone he knew. It’s this strength that emboldens the sharply-defined personalities of the WI women, portrayed with zest by the likes of Ruth Madoc and Denise Welch , to pose in the altogether behind buns and floral displays.

The songs are as funny as the script – that’s when they’re not big and rousing like the best of Barlow’s work with Take That. Yet, despite anthems galore, this is an intimate piece of theatre (almost overpowered by the space of Leeds Grand) that never loses sight of its humanity amidst the rolling hills of God’s Own County.

Firth and Barlow have opened the story out from its original focus on the Calendar Girls, bringing in aspects of village and family life, and the show climaxes where it should, with the famous photo shoot and its immediate aftermath.

I watched a special final dress rehearsal amongst the media, competition winners and carers.

• Until September 1. Visit or call 0844 8482700.

David Knights