IT'S BEEN 30 years since Fern Britton performed on the stage when she starred in Cinderella at the Mayflower Theatre in 1988 with Paul Nicholas.

And now, she's getting ready to return to the city in Calendar Girls the Musical in January 2019.

Thrilled to be one of the girls, (but keeping her kit firmly ON – “I’m playing Marie, so no nipps or noo for me!”) presenter and best-selling novelist, Fern, cheerfully admits that she almost missed out, initially telling her agent that on instinct it wasn’t for her.

“And then came the call saying that Gary Barlow would like to have a cup of coffee and a chat with me!” she exclaims, eyes bright and smile wide.

“Suddenly I found myself in a room reading the script, with Gary, Tim Firth, the producers and the casting director. And boy am I glad that they persisted!” she laughs, admitting that her instinct must have been on the blink.

“Never was I happier to be wrong about something. Some people don’t like musicals because of all the bursting into song, but with this you hardly know that a song has started until it’s halfway through. You are totally pulled along by your earholes and the songs really advance the story. Tim Firth is a God! He wrote the play, the movie and the musical and he’s like a Yorkshire Stephen Sondheim with the lyrics. As for Gary, he has written some incredible songs,” she enthuses.

It is a show that attracts a hugely diverse audience Fern explains why she thinks this is.

“This is an incredibly human story,” Fern elucidates.

“Life is all about loss, love, making a mess, making mistakes, clearing it up and atoning. It is a terribly hackneyed phrase, but our show is life affirming.”