Calendar Girls writer Tim Firth, whose musical This is My Family is reopening the refurbished Lyceum, is chuffed at just how big a risk Sheffield Theatres took in creating the show.
Tim, who is best known for his dramatisation of the story of the Yorkshire women whose nude charity calendar made them international celebrities, managed to persuade the theatres artistic director Daniel Evans to develop the show by singing it all the way through, sitting at a piano on the Lyceum stage. He saw enough potential in Tim’s performance to give it the go-ahead.
The show was first seen two years ago at the Crucible Studio and it has come back to be the first show on the Lyceum stage after a £2 million refurbishment this summer.
Tim said: “It is the hardest thing in the world to tackle a musical and find anybody who is willing to embark upon one. It’s the highest risk you can ever take because of the cost.
“If you write a play you have 100 sheets of typed paper and can deliver it to someone. If you want to find out what it’s like you can have some actors sitting round a table and get them to read it.
“With a musical you have no idea if it works unless you can hear the songs and construction and to be able to sing it you have to perform it. You’ve also got to have a musical director to teach the cast and he’s going to have practised it himself and made all the musical arrangements before that.
“Every step of that takes time and money, so just to get to the point of possibly realising that it is no good costs thousands of pounds. Consequently you’re taking a huge risk.”
Tim approached Daniel Evans because he knew he was interested in musical theatre, which turned out to be an inspired move.
The show, which won Best Musical at the UK Theatre Awards, is a comedy about modern family life told from the point of view of 13-year-old Nicky.
The youngster can see her parents growing away from each other as they juggle jobs, kids, an ailing grandma and the romantic sagas of Nicky’s aunt, so when she wins a family holiday to anywhere in the world she knows just where to take them all. Camping!
Tim was pleased that the cast and creative team were able to reunite for the show, apart from veteran actress Sian Phillips, who is playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Her role has been taken by Shameless star Marjorie Yates.
Tim said that he has always loved musicals, especially the ones with great stories and characters like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Blood Brothers.
He’s clearly got a taste for it because he’s in now working with Take That star Gary Barlow, who is a friend, on a new musical based on part of the Calendar Girls story.
They are looking at the effect of the women’s fame on the families they left behind, said Tim.
This is My Family is at the Lyceum from next Thursday, October 9, to Saturday October 18.
Box office: call 0114 249 6000 or go online to Sheffield Theatres