The Girls is based on hit movie Calendar Girls by Firth, who has lived in Alvanley for many years, and Juliette Towhidi.
It centred around the real life story of the Yorkshire ladies of Rylstone and District Women’s Institute who posed nude for a 2,000 calendar in aid of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research after the death of John Baker, the husband of WI member Angela, from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
A play followed and then the musical which is a collaboration between Tim, who hails from Warrington originally, and his Frodsham-raised pal Gary Barlow of worldwide Take That fame. The pair faced the press as the musical transferred to the West End where showbiz writer and former Chronicle reporter Marc Baker was there to ask the questions.
Gary, currently a judge on BBC’s Let It Shine, said: “You know what it is funny about it is that we have watched the show together tonight and it is a very northern show. It is kind of our childhood. That village in the show is where we have grown up and those women are our mums really. It just tickled me really as there are so many things like the things you say at school in it. I love it for that.”
Gary, who lost his father Colin in 2009 of a suspected heart attack, continued: “Right through this process, I think loss is one of the things that touches so many people. The one thing I love about this musical is the emotional thing of walking towards hope at the end.
“Not the loss itself, which of course is a sad part of the piece, but finding hope again makes me very emotional to watch. It shows the strength and character of human beings.”
And Gary said it was his mum Marjorie, a former lab technician at Frodsham High School, who first introduced him to Calendar Girls.
“It was my mum who first told me to watch Calendar Girls and I was surprised to see Tim’s name at the end of it as I was 15 when I first met Tim. My mum first introduced me to the film and Tim took me to see the play and that was five years ago when we talked about making it into a musical.
“When we started it I said to Tim ‘Great, now we are writing a musical. What musical should I go and watch?’. But he said ‘I don’t want you to watch any. I want you to do what you do best. Don’t turn yourself into a West End writer. I want you to write what is in your heart. What you are feeling at that moment’. He would send me song lyrics and titles and we would slowly start to etch away at these songs.”
Tim Firth said on working with Gary: “I met Gary when he was 15. We met on a writing competition we both entered. By that stage I had entered it so many times I ended up being a judge on it and this young lad came up and I thought ‘That is a good song. He has a voice on him’ so I went down and had a chat with him and it turned out he was from my home town (Frodsham). He was 400 metres down the road. That was the first coincidence.”
And Tim revealed the musical was largely ‘made in Frodsham’: “He (Gary) comes up to see his mum in Cheshire and we have a writing session all round the kitchen table and his mum brings biscuits and we just sit there. A lot of this was written in his mum’s lounge in Frodsham. His mum did have input. She had biscuits.”
Gary quipped: “The biscuits had a massive input. My mum loves the show. She is coming for the official opening and I think that is the 20th time she has seen it. She is my biggest fan.”
The Girls had its world premiere at Leeds Grand Theatre in November 2015.
This was followed up by a run at The Lowry in Salford in January last year during which it made more than £30,000 for charity.
Marjorie Barlow is helping to raise awareness of #MakeforMum, a new initiative from Child Bereavement UK in the run up to Mothering Sunday.
Marjorie is a volunteer for the charity, which supports families and educates professionals when a child grieves and when a child dies. Her son Gary Barlow became a patron of the charity last November.
Child Bereavement UK’s Fundraising Officer Seb Farrell said: “We know from families we have supported at Child Bereavement UK that Mother’s Day can be a particularly difficult time when a mum, dad, grandparent, baby or child in their family has died. By taking part in #MakeforMum and fundraising for Child Bereavement UK, you can help the charity to reach many more families who may need bereavement support around occasions such as Mother’s Day and throughout the year.”
Mothering Sunday falls on March 26 this year, but you can hold your own #MakeforMum event whenever suits you best in the run up to Mother’s Day. From creating a special meal, making tea, baking, making candles or cards, to holding a fundraising cake sale for friends or colleagues, you are invited to join in, get creative and host your own #MakeforMum event.
Share your pictures using the #MakeforMum hash tag or text MUMS02 £10 to 70070 to donate.