Kristine Larsen (Ruth), Barbara Berry (Jessie), Amy Bell (Cora), Liz Saville (Celia), Jennifer Goodsell (Chris) and Bev Steeves (Annie) star in Calendar Girls at Powerhouse Theatre May 2-12. (Kiss the Monkey Photography)

Cast bares it all on Vernon stage for Calendar Girls

Calendar Girls runs at Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre May 2-12

Tanya Laing Gahr is so enamoured with the production she sheds a tear every time she watches the magic unfold on stage.

And that’s saying a lot considering Laing Gahr has been hard at work in the director’s chair for four months to bring Calendar Girls to the Powerhouse Theatre May 2-12.

“It’s a very funny script but it’s also incredibly touching,” Laing Gahr said. “It still makes me cry every time. These actors make me cry every time. It’s a play that this audience will give themselves over to.”

Calendar Girls, written by playwright Tim Firth, originally hit the silver screen in 2003 and starred Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.

Following the true story of a group of Yorkshire gals and their monthly meetings at the local chapter of the Women’s Institute, Annie — played on screen by Walters and Powerhouse stage by Bev Steeves — and her close friend Chris — Mirren, Jennifer Goodsell — go above and beyond to spice up the institute’s annual calendar.

It was meant to be a banal calendar full of bridges that litter the English countryside, but when Annie’s husband passes after a battle with leukemia, Chris and Annie rally the institute to put together a nude calendar and raise money for leukemia research.

“This is such a wonderfully funny, poignant and powerful script,” Laing Gahr said.

While she stands firmly behind the power of the script, Laing Gahr opted not to watch the film.

“I wanted to make sure the story was not a retelling of another director’s vision,” Laing Gahr said. “We wanted to be as authentic in our telling as possible. They (audience) can expect to see some more authentic communication between actors, between each other and between the moments they developed. We’ve really been digging into the emotional aspect of live theatre.”

Unlike many community theatre performances, Laing Gahr said, Calendar Girls revolves around a women-centric cast.

“I love women’s stories,” Laing Gahr said. “There tends to be a lot of men with women in supporting roles. (In Calendar Girls) women are the driving force. Their stories are so real, they’re so authentic.”

Laing Gahr, who has more than two decades experience in the industry, including a stint running a theatre company in Cranbrook and working as a director for hire, leads a cast comprised of four relatively new actors and nine veterans.

“It’s a really interesting blend of personality, experience and background,” Laing Gahr said. “The thing that truly unites them is they love this play so much. They’re just bringing it.”

And, like the story itself, the cast and crew of Calendar Girls is putting together their own calendar, which will be available on performance nights and around town soon. Proceeds from the calendar support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

“I think it’s an important story because of those relationships and the struggle of those characters to reach their fullest potential,” Laing Gahr said. “The removal of clothing is very good, very funny, but it’s also a great metaphor.”

At the root of it, Laing Gahr said it’s an inspiring story made possible by the dedication of cast and crew.

“What I really love is watching the culmination of so many people’s efforts. It’s this incredible effort of so many people to put two hours of story telling on stage,” Laing Gahr said. “I just think this is going to be one of the best plays we’re going to see here.”

Calendar Girls runs at Powerhouse Theatre May 2-15 and 8-12 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees May 6 and 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $28 adult and $22 student and are available through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. Following a new partnership with Little Tex restaurant, ticket holders are eligible for specials on performance nights.

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