Actress Joanna lands role in Gary Barlow’s musical

The Calendar girls at the Girls musical, London, Angela Baker is pictured with  Joanna Riding who plays Angela in the Musical ..SH100142371q. ..Picture by Simon Hulme
The Calendar girls at the Girls musical, London, Angela Baker is pictured with Joanna Riding who plays Angela in the Musical ..SH100142371q. ..Picture by Simon Hulme
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Longridge-born actress Joanna Riding has landed a starring role in Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new musical version of Calendar Girls.

The Girls is based on the celebrated film which tells the story of a Yorkshire Women’s Institute inspired by the death of a member’s husband to bare all for a fundraising calendar.

Clockwise Gary Barlow, Tim Firth, Karen West, Vivien Parry, Harriet Thorpe, Shirley Jameson, Claire Moore, Sara Kestelman, Debbie Chazen, Claire Machin and Joanna Riding in The Girls

Clockwise Gary Barlow, Tim Firth, Karen West, Vivien Parry, Harriet Thorpe, Shirley Jameson, Claire Moore, Sara Kestelman, Debbie Chazen, Claire Machin and Joanna Riding in The Girls

Take That star Gary Barlow and screenwriter Tim Firth’s production is set to premiere in Leeds on November 14, running for a month, before coming to The Lowry, at Salford, for three weeks from January 8.

Olivier Award-winning actress Joanna is to play Annie, the character ‘loosely’ based on Angela Baker – and played by Julie Walters in the film – whose husband John’s death from non-Hodgkins lymphoma sets the wheels in motion.

Joanna, who has been involved with the production from its workshop phase, said: “I was approached way, way back and loved it from day one, and made it very clear I would like to keep working on it if they would like me.

“It’s changed very much during that time, but I’m lucky as I was a little bit more familiar with it than many were when we started rehearsals.”

It’s hard not to be emotional, not just because it’s your work but because this is their story

Gary Barlow

With a world premiere date set for Leeds, and the follow up run in Salford, the show’s something of a homecoming for Joanna, whose family is still based in the area and runs Singletons Dairy.

“I get a great deal of support from back home, even when I’m in the West End, mum and dad get the coach down to see me,” she said. “But I’ve not been in Manchester performing for a long time.

“As I get older, and my children, who are six and eight, get older, I miss it more and more.

“It’s always going to be home though; it’s in your blood and a part of you sighs when you get there.”

Last week Gary Barlow invited the ladies of the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute, who inspired the original story, to London for a sneak preview of the songs he has penned for The Girls during rehearsals.

“Their presence finishes the whole thing off,” said the singer songwriter.

“I was thinking when I saw them all what a beautiful thing it is for this to continue and for them to watch themselves up there. It’s hard not to be emotional, not just because it’s your work but because this is their story.”

Besides Joanna as Angela (Annie in film) the cast will be led by Debbie Chazen as Ruth, Sara Kestelman as Jessie, Claire Machin as Cora, Claire Moore as Chris, Vivien Parry as Celia and Harriet Thorpe as Marie.

Songs written for The Girls by Gary and Tim include Yes, I’ve Had A Little Work Done; Sunflower, What Age Expects; Yorkshire 
and Dare.