• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Woodford Theatre to present 'Calendar Girls' starting Friday

"Calendar Girls," a true story about a group of middle-aged women who posed for a calendar to raise money in the fight against leukemia, will come to the Woodford Theatre stage for three weekends of performances beginning Friday night at 8. The story of these British women, who posed for photos implying nudity after one of their husbands died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at age 54, was made into a movie starring Helen Mirren in 2003. It was later adapted for the stage by Tim Firth. Sherry Jackson Thompson, who portrays Annie in Woodford Theatre's upcoming production, describes "Calendar Girls" as being "less about the calendar and more about the relationships of these ladies." She and Melissa Rae Wilkeson explore the friendship of Annie and Chris, and how the notoriety caused by being Calendar Girls in an "alternative" calendar strains their relationship. Tim Hull and Thompson are able to share the progression of his character's cancer and a married couple's relationship in just three scenes of "Calendar Girls." "The moments that they have onstage are so important, and there are no words wasted and there's no time wasted," says Thompson. She credits Hull's portrayal of John for elevating her performance - and making their relationship "so real." "The audience has to love him," says director Patti Heying. "They have to love him, and they have to love that relationship, that marriage between the two of them." By allowing audiences to love Hull's character, they are able to understand why 11 women from a small town in England would be willing to pose nude for a calendar to support leukemia and lymphoma research, Heying says. "I want (audiences) to see those friendships. I want them to see what a small group of like-minded women can do, what they can accomplish," says Heying. "It was huge what came out of that project . They've made a worldwide impact." Sales from the real-life Calendar Girls calendars raised over $4 million for cancer research. During an interview just days before opening night, Heying says she appreciates the chemistry of her entire cast, and how much they support each other onstage and off. "There's not a bad note in the bunch. They're just wonderful," she says. Thompson credits Heying for nurturing a genuine bond among everyone in the cast. "They have bonded with one another in ways that I couldn't have imagined," adds Heying. While other productions of "Calendar Girls" have included female actors completely disrobing for a calendar photo shoot scene, director Patti Heying says Woodford Theatre audiences will only see bare legs and shoulders. Weekend performances of "Calendar Girls" are March 4 to 6, March 11 to 13, and March 18 to 20, with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 and Sunday matinees at 2 in the Woodford Theatre. Tickets are $20 for adults and $13 for students. For tickets or more information, call the Woodford Theatre box office at 873-0648 or visit www.woodfordtheatre.com. The upcoming "Calendar Girls" performances come on the heels of Woodford Theatre producing a calendar featuring local business women for a fundraiser supporting efforts to make upgrades to its space in the Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center. Calendars are still available.

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