Publicity shots have been released of the starry new cast of Calendar Girls, who take over at the Noel Coward theatre next month (28 July 2009).

The new line-up includes Jerry Hall, Anita Dobson, Jill Halfpenny, Gemma Atkinson, Sara Crowe, Jill Baker and EastEnders stars June Brown and Jack Ryder. Baker and Dobson will play Annie and Chris respectively, the roles created on screen by Julie Walters and Helen Mirren, and currently played in the West End by Patricia Hodge and Lynda Bellingham (See News, 29 May 2009).

Jerry Hall, who plays Celia (Miss September), is no stranger to appearing nude in the West End having bared all as Mrs Robinson in the 2001 stage adaptation of The Graduate.

Tim Firth’s adaptation of the award-winning 2003 film Calendar Girls, for which he also wrote the screenplay, 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.

L-R: Gemma Atkinson, Jill Halfpenny, June Brown,
Anita Dobson, Sara Crowe, Jill Baker and Jerry Hall

Jack Ryder gets mobbed


Another show undergoing a changing of the guard next month is Hairspray, with Brian Conley taking over from Michael Ball in the role of Edna Turnblad from 27 July (See News, 15 Apr 2009).

Ball leaves a big pair of stilettos to fill, having won Best Actor in a Musical at both the Whatsonstage.com and Laurence Olivier Awards last year for his performance in the role. Hairspray has picked up a string of other accolades since it opened on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October) at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where it’s now booking until 27 March 2010.

Conley is no stranger to awards himself, having won Best Performance in a Musical at the TMA Awards last year for his performance in The Music Man at the Chichester Festival Theatre, and been nominated for an Olivier Award for his breakthrough role as Al Jolson in 1995 West End musical Jolson. His other stage credits include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Me and My Girl and Elton John’s Glasses.

Brian Conley before and after his Edna transformation