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Q&A: Gary Barlow and Tim Firth

Published 28 December 2016

New musical comedy The Girls will be making its West End premiere at the Phoenix Theatre on 28 January 2017, with music by world-famous composer and musician Gary Barlow, and lyrics and book by playwright – and the original film’s screenwriter – Tim Firth.  

The Girls originally premiered as a play in 2015 at the Leeds Grand Theatre, and later at The Lowry in Salford in 2016. Based on the 2003 film, The Girls is the real life story of a Women’s Institute group who decide to fundraise for a local hospital by posing for a raunchy-but-tasteful nude calendar, inadvertently making the group media sensations.

We chatted to Gary and Tim to find out more about the show, and, of course, what month they would be in the calendar.

What drew you to the story?
Gary and Tim: It’s a wonderful story that could be about our mums. It’s a show that will make you laugh, make you cry and make you cheer – as The Times said!

Tell us about your unique approach to the production.
Gary and Tim: We wanted to write a village green musical for the world.

What musical style can we expect from the show?
Gary and Tim: The music is as English as the story, but for the West End we’ve made some additions … well it wouldn’t be Yorkshire without a brass band, would it?

Gary, how does the creative process of writing for a musical differ from writing for pop artists?
Gary: I don’t really think of it as a different process, but I’m a pop song writer so that’s how I always write. Once we start working with the producers and the creative team of a musical, we start to explore how it works with an orchestra and with an ensemble of singers. It’s great to have that rehearsal process where we really get to know the characters and have the luxury to develop the songs with the cast.

Tim, you’ve written the Calendar Girls film and play. Do you get something new from the story each time you approach it?
Tim: For me, there was so much more to explore. This time we’re able to tell more of this story from the husband’s and the children’s point of view, which hasn’t been told before.

What has been your favourite moment of creating this show so far?
Gary and Tim: At the dress rehearsal at the Leeds Grand Theatre to an audience of nurses and carers, who stood and cheered and wouldn’t leave the theatre.

And finally, what month would you be in the calendar, and what would your prop be?
Gary and Tim: It’d have to be the months of our birthdays [January for Gary and October for Tim]. We would both feel very comfortable behind a grand piano…


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