AN eagerly anticipated date in Southampton's entertainment diary happens next week as Calendar Girls the Musical comes to Mayflower Theatre ( Tuesday January 8-Saturday January 19).

Written by Take That's Gary Barlow and Olivier-award-winner Tim Firth, the musical comedy brings together star novelist and television presenter Fern Britton, Hi-De-Hi favourite Ruth Madoc and Coronation Street and TV star Denise Welsh.

Tim Firth penned the original award-winning Calendar Girls play.

The show is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies 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, and have to date raised almost £5million for Bloodwise.

It shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something extraordinary.

Calendar Girls also stars Anna-Jane Casey, best known for Billy Elliot, West End favourite Sara Crowe and Rebecca Storm, who famously played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers.

The critically acclaimed production played a six-month London season in 2017, which followed sold-out seasons in Leeds and Manchester.

Denise Welch told the Daily Echo: "I have spent a lot of my career in TV where everything is done as fast as possible. With this show it has had time invested in it; it has been completely re-thought since it was in the West End. Tim Firth is a God! Every full stop is there for a reason, and Gary’s music – oh wow!

"Tim, Gary and Matt our director are playing against the typical belty musical. This is special; original, feel-good and very different to a typical musical."

The new tour is based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play.

Asked why he wanted to turn the play into a musical Tim Firth said:“This is truly a human story. When I wrote the play, unusually for me the characters started to have quite long solo speeches which worked for the play. And I remember reading these things and thinking I quite like this so I’m not going to cut them out - but they are unusual as they are like soliloquy but now I realise what they really were was songs. They were characters wanting to share. So then after a long time I agreed to think of this as a musical. There is a story that can born out of the play, the same way the play was born out of the film. The musical would take the end of the first act of the play and push it right back to the end of the musical which would allow us to talk about other things and share other moments. Also having the kids, seeing the ramifications on the husbands - all of which I hadn’t really had much time to do in the play. And then this other thing appeared, a really super English musical and that’s what made the Calendar Girls work and fabulous in the first place. And this musical was in the air and I felt that there was a story to tell that the play hadn’t been able to.”

Firth says that fans of the original West End production will not be disappointed: “There is an old saying that musicals aren’t written, they are rewritten. There are some changes but people who saw it in the West End will not come away and think oh my god it is a completely different show. A lot of it we loved and a lot of it we really got right first time around. Being able to go back to Gary and say these areas could be better or cleaner. The set designer and the lighting designer also had the chance to go away and do that and it means that it’s sort of created this new thing which is the best of what we had with a few….added extras.”

Don’t miss Calendar Girls The Musical when it comes to Mayflower Theatre from Tuesday January 8 – Saturday January19.