Young at Heart presents cheeky ‘Calendar Girls’
(Left to right) Gayle Smith, Amy Askins, Kerry Simpson Becky Howard, Heather Martin and Fran Pesch are among the cast of Young at Heart Players’ production of the British comedy “Calendar Girls” Nov. 16-25 at the Dayton Playhouse. CONTRIBUTED
By Russell Florence Jr. Contributing Writer
The 2008 British comedy “Calendar Girls,” based on the hit 2003 film of the same name by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth, opens senior-themed Young at Heart Players’ 2018-19 season Nov. 16-25 at the Dayton Playhouse.

This tender yet fimny tale, centered on friends Chris Harper and Annie Clarke along with Annie’s sickly husband John, is based on the true story of a group of Yorkshire women who participated in a cheeky nude calendar in order to raise funds for leukemia research in the spring of 1999. The play primarily speaks to the joys of female empowerment and solidarity in the face of adversity.

“This play is a lighter, happier choice for (Young at Heart),” explained director Annie Pesch, who memorably staged and starred in YAH’s excellent local premiere of “Well” last season. “These older women are stepping outside of their comfort zone to do exciting new things for a good cause, which I found to be a great message for Young at Heart. The entire play (spotlights) the (strengths) of women, specifically six women and their fight to get their calendar out as well as their fight to make money for the cancer wing of a hospital. Particularly interesting is the fact that this play features women of different backgrounds and some are hesitating to get involved while others are pushing to make the calendar happen. But no matter their beliefs or where they come from, they all work together in the end to create the calendar, especially because they are moved to do it because of John and his story.”

“The camaraderie and humor shared by group of women resonates most with me,” added Becky Howard, who portrays Chris and was seen in Pesch’s staging of Dayton Playhouse’s “The Magnificent Hubba Hubba. ” “They all support each other with compassion and laughs through thick and thin. Chris is sort of the life of the party, a bit of a bad girl and a ham. She would call herself a loyal friend, which I feel ultimately she is, but can and does lose her way a little on this journey.”

“The women become more confident and comfortable in their own skin as the story unfolds,” echoed Kerry Simpson, who portrays Annie. “Everyone has something about themselves they don’t like. It’s just human nature. To see someone find their own worth despite their ‘flaws’ is beautiful. Annie has moments of hilarity and pain and everything in between.”

Simpson, previously seen at Dayton Theatre Guild and Brookville Community Theatre, was also a part of “Well” last season. She values YAH’s ability to create intimate, thought-provoking productions, a trademark of the troupe which launched in 2001. “Young at Heart (produces) shows which always make me think beyond the entertainment they provide, ” she noted.

In addition to Howard and Simpson, the cast consists of Amy Askins as Cora, Gayle Smith as Jessie, Heather Martin as Celia, YAHP founder Fran Pesch as Ruth, Cheryl Mellen as Marie, Kelli Locker as Brenda Hulse and Elaine, Jim Spencer as John, John Spitler as Rod, Jane McBride as Lady Cravenshire and WI Announcer, Michael Plaugher as Lawrence, and Brian Buttrey as Liam.

Annie Pesch says if you’re familiar with the film you’ll walk away with a deeper, more substantial look at the characters, which have been fleshed out for the stage.

“The film focuses primarily on Annie and Chris, with glimpses into the lives of the other ‘Calendar Girls,’” she said. “In the play, we find out more about the other women who are featured much more prominently in the production. The play has moments from the movie so many people enjoyed, such as the calendar scene, but the writing is very clever and witty. Even though this show has dramatic elements, especially with John, but it mi ages to touch on the sad moments in an inspiration tone which is positive an uplifting.”

“This is such a fun shot with a large, intergenerational cast,” echoed Fran Pesch who appeared opposite Howard in “The Magnificent Hubba Hubba.” “Through this special calendar project the women are reborn and become willing to try new things. I am so proud of and remain devoted to Young at Heart.” Contact this contributing writer at

What: “Calendar Girls”
When: Nov. 16-25; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Dayton Playhouse, 1301E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton
Cost: $15 adults; $12 seniors; Tickets may be purchased at the door; Open seating Tickets: For reservations, call (937) 654-0400
More information:
FYI: The production contains adult language and partial nudity