Calendar Girls Norma Weatherby as Jessie (left)

Calendar Girls Norma Weatherby as Jessie (left)

Laugh and cry with the Calendar Girls

Be prepared. The Studio Theatre’s production of Calendar Girls will make you laugh, make you think and may even make you cry.

Be prepared. The Studio Theatre’s production of Calendar Girls will make you laugh, make you think and may even make you cry.

Calendar Girls is based on the true story about a group of Women’s Institute members in England who decide to step outside their comfort zone to produce a nude calendar of themselves, rather than their traditional fundraising calendars featuring churches and pretty gardens.

Based on the old add-age that sex sells, the best friend of a woman whose husband dies makes a proposal for the women to pose for the nude calendar as a way to raise funds for leukaemia research.

One by one, the women in their own reluctant ways, agree to pose for the calendar.

A plan is hatched to incorporate their traditional fundraising items such as baking, jellies and jams, flowers and knitting to cover their most private parts.

At first the photographer is forced to do his job by coaching the women from behind a closed door on how to use his camera equipment to take the pictures.

But as the session moves on the women abandon their shyness with a little liquid courage, making for some hilariously funny scenes.

“The play is absolutely beautiful,” says director Stacey Poirier.

“When you are sitting in the audience it will make you feel everything in the matter of two hours — happy, sad. You won’t be angry at any moment but there are angry scenes so you will be able to connect as a human being to everything that is going on. This is real, it is reality.”

Many of the cast members are relatively new to the stage or returning after a long hiatus.

But judging by the dress rehearsal Sunday night, this ensemble cast is as strong as any the Studio Theatre has produced.

Norma Weatherby plays Jessie, one of the older women in the cast.

“I didn’t think I would be able to do this again, but I am having a ball with it,” says Weatherby, who has acted in a few plays years ago.

Carl Johnson plays John Clark, whose love and support for his wife Annie, played by Merla Monroe, and the work of the Women’s Institute continues strong despite his failing health.

Johnson has acted in several other Studio Theatre productions such as Cabaret, Urine Town and Har: The Pirate Play, but says this is his first serious role.

“It’s a phenomenal experience and a phenomenal cast,” Johnson says. “It’s been a really good experience for me.”

Susan Nelson plays Annie’s best friend Chris, who comes up with the nude calendar idea.

“This has been great fun,” says Nelson, who is returning to the stage after a 10-year hiatus. “I don’t think there is a loser among the whole bunch, is there.”

Matt Dressler, plays Chris’s husband Rod who supports his wife in the nude calendar project. This is his second time on stage, having made his debut in Dial M for Murder last year.

“This is my second time acting and a completely different experience from the one last year,” Dressler says.

“Oh very,” Dressler  laughs when asked if he is nervous. “That’s why we come out. It’s all about the adrenalin.”

Kelly McDonald is taking the leap to acting for the very first time as Cora, the WI’s piano and song leader.

Rather than being nervous, McDonald says she is excited to be in the play.

“I have a blast every time I come to rehearsal,” McDonald says. “The people here are absolutely amazing, just amazing. They are the reason I am having such a good time.”

McDonald is also discovering talents she had no idea she had.

“My character is the singer, which is a little bit scary because I don’t sing,” McDonald says. “The director told me what she wanted and I was able to do that so I guess I can sing, but I didn’t know that. The director is fantastic.”

Filling out the cast are Veronica Abel as Ceila, Tanis Daum as Elaine, Rae Perry in the dual roles of Lady Cravenshire and Brenda; Matt Granlund in the dual roles of photographer and business man; Sylvia Swift as Marie; and Cathie Hamm as Ruth.