Maureen Nolan admits that she was totally unprepared for the effect being part of Calendar Girls the Musical would have on her.

“It’s amazing, it’s so beautiful - I really can’t say enough about it,” said Maureen, who having been part of the successful singing group the Nolan Sisters has enjoyed a second career in musical theatre.

On stage she is best known for her role in Blood Brothers playing Mrs Johnstone.

Lancashire Telegraph: Maureen Nolan as Ruth in Calendar Girls the Musical

“Calendar Girls is the first show I’ve been involved in since Blood Brothers which has got to me in this way,” she said. “It’s a real rollercoaster of emotions - one minute you’re crying and then you’re laughing the next. I’m just having a ball being part of it.”

Maureen toured with Calendar Girls last year and is returning as the show heads to The Lowry next week and Blackpool the following week.

Written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow, it’s based on the true story of members of the Knapley Women’s Institute who decided to do a nude calendar to raise funds into leukaemia following the death of one of their husbands.

Originally called The Girls, the musical has been reworked and new songs added for the current tour.

“I’d never seen the musical before but I know originally that children of the women also featured in it,” said Maureen, who plays Ruth. “Tim and Gary wanted to concentrate more on the women themselves this time and their lives.

“The fact that it is based on a true story really helps, I think. Tim and Gary’s writing is so good that you are halfway there before you even start.”

Calendar Girls started life as a play which Maureen’s sister Bernie starred in.

“I’d heard about the story from her but when I was offered the part in the musical I really didn’t expect to get so caught up in it all. I just though ‘ah well, that sounds like a nice job’. But it’s become so much more than that.

“It’s such a human story. It’s about loss and how you cope with that; it’s about empowerment and friendship - and it’s just so relatable.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Maureen Nolan

And, contrary to what many think, Calendar Girls is a musical for everyone.

“We hear men saying that it’s one for their wives and come along almost begrudgingly but they get just as much out of it,” said Maureen.

The show heading out on tour features an almost totally new cast - Maureen is one of the few who was in the show last year.

Newcomers include Lyn Paul, Foyle’s War star Honeysuckle Weeks; EastEnders’ Laurie Brett; Helen Pearson from Hollyoaks and Samantha Seager from Coronation Street.

“I didn’t really know any of them before we started rehearsals,” said Maureen. “I had met Lyn a few times and obviously we had a connection through both playing Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers.

“But we’ve all become such good friends so quickly. I think it’s partly because we have all been through things like these women we play - that does bring you closer.”

One of the main areas of attention for Calendar Girls, certainly when the show first launched, is ‘that scene’ when the calendar is shot with the women’s modesty being hidden by strategically placed objects.

“At the start of rehearsal that is the elephant in the room,” said Maureen. “Everyone’s thinking about it but it too afraid to mention it. But actually, it’s only a small part of the story. There’s so much more to this show than that.

“Our lovely director Jonathan O’Boyle got us all in a room and got us to talk about the scene; what we were worried about and share our fears. Then we went through how it would be staged - and it’s done so cleverly and it’s actually so funny. Once you’ve done it you become so much more relaxed about it - it’s like ‘right ;let’s get our clothes off and get on with it!”

Lancashire Telegraph: Maureen (left) and the cast of Calendar Girls

So does that mean Maureen will be tempted to follow sister and Loose Women star Colleen to appear in TV’s The Full Monty.

“Oh no,” she said decisively. “I know the programme raised millions but there is no way I would ever do that. They really are so exposed. No, that’s not going to happen.”

Maureen has enjoyed the experience of being the experienced hand on stage.

“It’s nice to know how the audience is going to react to the show,” she said. “The newbies as I call them have still got to experience that really.”

The show restarted in Bromley this week.

“But you can relax. You can’t prepare yourself for the reaction which is so warm and actually so moving.

“I just tell the others ‘you’re going to love it’.”

The fact that the show is in Salford and then Blackpool before going around the country is an added bonus for Maureen.

“I love The Lowry and, of course I live in Blackpool, so both these dates are really special.”

Calendar Girls the Musical, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Tuesday, January 16 to Saturday, January 20 and Blackpool Opera House, Tuesday, January 23 to Saturday, January 27. Details from and