The cast of the stage version of Calendar Girls met their real-life counterparts last night, as the show celebrated its arrival at the West End's Noel Coward theatre with a charity gala night attended by guests including six of the original girls. Also in attendance were the panellists from ITV chatshow Loose Women and celebrities including Cilla Black, Honor Blackman, Christopher Biggins, Lesley Garrett and Richard Fleeshman.

Calendar Girls, adapted by Tim Firth from his screenplay for the hit 2003 film, tells the real-life story of the members of a Yorkshire chapter of the Women’s Institute who decide to pose nude for a charity calendar. It premiered at the Chichester Festival Theatre last September, before embarking on a hugely successful national tour (See News, 17 Oct 2008).

Last night's gala was held in aid of Leukaemia Research, the charity that has to date benefited from nearly £2million since the launch of the original calendar. Producers David Pugh and Daffyd Rogers have also arranged a £1.50 donation on every ticket sold throughout the West End run.

TO SCROLL THROUGH ALL OF CALENDAR GIRLS' GALA NIGHT PHOTOS,
JUST CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.
PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the curtain call and after party at the Noel Coward theatre, where first night guests included the Cilla Black, Honor Blackman, Christopher Biggins, Laura Haddock, Nikolas Grace, Lesley Garrett, Denise Welch, Sherrie Hewson, Helen Lederer, Andrea McLean, Carol McGiffin, Coleen Nolan, Jackie Brambles, Richard Fleeshman and the Original Calendar Girls - Angela Baker, Tricia Stewart, Beryl Bamforth, Lynda Logan, Christine Clancy and Ros Fawcett.

On stage, Patricia Hodge plays Annie (Julie Walters on screen) who, after losing her husband to leukaemia, teams up with her close friend and fellow WI member Chris, played by Lynda Bellingham (Helen Mirren on screen) to raise money for the local hospital by producing a calendar.

They’re joined by Sian Phillips, Elaine C Smith, Gaynor Faye and Julia Hills as the fellow calendar girls of the title, and by Brigit Forsyth as non-stripping WI president Marie. Also in the cast are Joan Blackham, Abby Francis, Gary Lilburn, Gerard McDermot and Carl Prekopp.

Calendar Girls is currently booking at the Noel Coward theatre to 19 September 2009.

- by Theo Bosanquet


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