A play that has been in the works for two and a half years will finally be unveiled in Chilliwack later this month.
The Chilliwack Players Guild is bringing Calendar Girls to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre stage April 21 to 30.
It’s a true story about a group of Yorkshire women who decide to pose nude for a calendar to raise money for cancer research.
“Calendar Girls, on its surface, is a delightful story of a group of brave, small-town women who had a crazy idea blossom into something way bigger than their wildest dreams – a much-needed ‘good news’ tonic for us all,” said director Clint Hames.
The pandemic put a pause on the guild’s production more than once. Auditions took place back in August 2019, and they were three weeks away from opening night when the pandemic hit. They figured they’d wait two weeks and would then be able to raise the curtain, Hames said.
Calendar Girls kept getting pushed back again and again until they were finally able to go ahead with a spring 2022 show.
“The remarkable thing is, apart from a couple of people, it’s the same cast,” Hames said.
Cast members admit it’s been challenging. They forgot their lines over the past two years and had to start and stop rehearsals several times. They had a few outdoor get-togethers simply to read their lines in order to stay motivated.
The cast is made up of mostly older women who play the majority of the lead roles.
“For mature women, this is a goldmine,” said Janet Carroll who plays Chris. “It’s a really fun show to be in and a really strong cast… and we’re assuming it’s going to be a really fun show to watch.”
She points out it’s a very technical show with lots of scene changes and costume changes.
There’s also the issue of appearing nude without actually being naked on stage. Hames won’t reveal how they accomplish this, but he says it’s one of the “pony tricks” in the show.
Hames, Carroll and fellow actor Christine Newsome, who plays Jessie, all agree it’s the camaraderie and courage of the women that makes the production beautiful.
“The wonderful thing about this show is the joie de vivre. The companionship of the six women who are the calendar girls is really working,” said Newsome.
“This is a celebration of women being beautiful at all phases of their lives,” added Hames. “It’s also about how the bravery they show and the courage changes each one of them in a different way.”
It’s based on a true story that took place in the ’80s. It became a movie in 2003 featuring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, then a play, and this year it’s also a Broadway musical.
“It’s got everything. It’s got drama, it’s poignant, it’s funny as heck,” Carroll said.
Synopsis: after the previous year’s fundraising calendar featuring local bridges raises a paltry sum, the members of the Knapely Women’s Institute persuade one another to produce a charity calendar with a difference: they decide to pose nude for an ‘alternative’ calendar. Puzzling their husbands, mortifying their children and riding the wrath of the outraged women’s institute, the calendar becomes a huge success, sparking a global phenomenon.
“Flowers, especially sunflowers, are a constant metaphor throughout the play. Just as sunlight ignites the growth in flowers, bravery is the sunlight that encourages these women,” Hames said.
Calendar Girls by the Chilliwack Players Guild is in the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre from April 21 to 30. Show times: April 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m., and April 24 at 1:30 p.m. Tickets available at the Centre Box Office, by calling 604-391-SHOW (7469) or online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca/event/calendar-girls.
Note: This play has mature content. For ages 13 and up.