Award-winning musical, Calendar Girls, written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow, will soon be in Edinburgh, at Festival Theatre on Tuesday, running until 13th October. Starring Denise Welch, Fern Britton, Anna-Jane Casey, Ruth Madoc, Sara Crowe, Karen Dunbar and Rebecca Storm, it not only boasts the writing talent.
Denise Welch spoke with The Fountain about how she came to be in Calendar Girls and told us more about her character, Celia.
TF: Calendar Girls sounds like a terrific show, can you tell us how you came to be involved in the production?
I actually did a reading of Calendar Girls, The Musical, about five years ago, when Tim and Gary first wrote it. And David Pugh the producer who I have known for many years asked me to do a table reading in London and I totally fell in love with it. I kind of didn’t know how there could be another life after the successful play, by just adding what I thought then a few songs but how Tim has fleshed this out and brought in the community, and how Gary’s music enhances the feeling of Yorkshire, wonderful. However, for various reasons I could not be involved with it when it came to fruition but always harboured a desire to be. And so, I was really surprised and thrilled last year when I was called in for a cup of tea with David Pugh and in walked Gary Barlow and they offered me the role of Celia. So much as it’s a long tour and I miss my family and friends and it can be arduous at time, it’s a joy to do this production and I don’t think I have ever done a show in forty years that has as much impact on an audience, and a visible impact as well, crying and laughing, standing ovations, every performance, it’s quite wonderful.
TF: Can you tell us a little bit about your character, Celia, in Calendar Girls?
She is fabulous, she is an ex air-hostess, has a very loving relationship with her husband, who in this production has brought her back to Yorkshire because their lifestyle no doubt was a bit nomadic with her flying. They have no children, that’s never really addressed but we get the impression that it was a choice and they are very happy together. She has to hide her light under a bushel as it were because her husband is in the golf club and she is trying desperately to conform and fit in but she doesn’t and he then feels guilty about the fact that he is trying to get her to conform. They have a problem with cleavage at the golf club, is one of the lines, and it turns out that Celia has had a little work done, which is the song I get to sing and bring humour to. In the previous production of the musical the song was performed by a much greater singer than I but with less comedy so I get away with being able to provide a comic leaning to it, and it’s great fun to play and the audience seem to enjoy laughing at Celia’s expense a little bit about having her boobs done but she plays into it and I think she feels quite relieved that the pressure’s off and the girls now know because they have clearly been talking about her increasing size. She is a real woman’s woman and I love that about her, and I have been able to create a lovely bond with a couple of the characters, with Cora and Ruth. She is a woman’s woman, which I feel I am, so that’s all great.
TF: You were doing TV soaps for a while with Coronation St and Waterloo Road, are we likely to see a return back to television Denise?
I have done theatre for the last couple of years, I was in the London Palladium last year with Wind in the Willows and now I am on this tour for nine months of it and loving it. TV wise I am back on Loose Women after a five year hiatus, the time was right for me to leave five years ago and they have kindly asked me back. At the moment obviously due to working commitments I only occasionally have a Monday off, so when I’ve got that Monday off I am choosing to keep my face on the box with Loose Women. I am ready to do another TV drama so hopefully next year if there is something right and they want me for it, maybe I can do that.
TF: And what is it that draws you to the theatre, you have been in many productions over the last few years?
I like TV and theatre, people always ask what do you prefer. There are reasons why I like both of them but this show reminds me of why I like theatre because as I said before, of the amazing response, there is nothing like that from an audience, so watch this space. The last tour I did was about eight years ago with Steel Magnolias and I lost my beloved mum during that production and the theatre I returned to was the Theatre Royal Newcastle. The people in the audience knew I had lost mum and stood up and gave this standing ovation when I walked on. I am in Newcastle doing this interview now, and it was quite moving to return to the Theatre Royal which has such fond memories for me.
TF: And is it possible that we may see you put your Dancing On Ice skills to the stage, on some kind of ice skating dance production?
Dancing on Ice was 2011, I am still great friends with my skating partner Matt Evers, I go to LA quite a lot and see him, that’s where he lives. I have taken to the ice on a few occasions since I finished the show and I still enjoy it as a hobby but I don’t think there will be many skating projects on the horizon. I didn’t do bad for an “old bird”, I stayed in it for nine weeks but I think that was a sympathy vote but nevermind, it was a great fun to do and a box ticked as it were.
Featured photo courtesy of Matt Crockett, headshot courtesy of John Swannell
Calendar Girls runs at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, from 2nd until 13th October.