Red-letter days for Calendar Girls musical stars

On song:  From left: Ben Hunter, Tim Firth, Chloe May Jackson, Gary Barlow and Josh Benson. Picture: Matt Crockett
On song: From left: Ben Hunter, Tim Firth, Chloe May Jackson, Gary Barlow and Josh Benson. Picture: Matt Crockett
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YOUNG ACTOR Josh Benson had double reason for celebrating after finding out he had a starring role in Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new musical The Girls, on his 18th birthday.

Benson, from York, will play Yorkshire lad ‘Tommo’ in the forthcoming musical based on a true story and Firth’s award-winning play, Calendar Girls.

He told The Yorkshire Post yesterday: “The day before I found out that I’d got four As in my A-Levels and then on my birthday I was told I had the part [in the musical], so that made for an amazing couple of days.”

Benson is not the only young Yorkshire actor celebrating, with 17 year-old Ben Hunter from Hull also being offered a part, as ‘Danny.’

Hunter said: “This is my first proper professional job.

“I’ve played in church halls but nothing on this scale, it’s just awesome.

“And it’s such an honour to be involved in something like this.”

They are joined by 17 year-old Chloe May Jackson from Blackburn, who will play the part of Jenny, a Lancashire girl who moves to Yorkshire and falls in love.

The trio beat off stiff competition from thousands of other hopefuls to land roles in the new musical which premieres in Leeds this autumn.

Barlow and Firth were keen to give local young actors a chance and speaking about their casting decision they said: “We knew there was talent ‘up North’; we just didn’t realise how difficult it would be to choose from such a wealth of it.”

Firth added: “This musical is about life in the village, so I very much wanted to include the affect the calendar had on everybody – the characters of Danny and Tommo are sons of two of the Calendar Girls, whereas the character Jenny is the mystery teenager who turns up out of nowhere and affects the boys in her own particular way.”

The Girls is inspired by the true story of a group of women who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands.

The musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of women achieved something extraordinary.

The world premiere is at Leeds Grand Theatre on November 14.