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Karen Dunbar top of Gary Barlow’s list when casting Calendar Girls The Musical

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ONCE seen never forgotten but comedy actress Karen Dunbar has told how the stellar stage presence of her character Angela Silveri helped win her a role in Gary Barlow’s new musical.

The Take That star is apparently a secret fan of Karen’s character who fronts the less than dynamic duo Almost Angelic from her TV sketch show.

And when he was casting for Calendar Girls The Musical, Karen was near the top of his list.

“I went down there with my audition head on, but when I arrived it was like I had the part already,” said Karen.

“Sometimes auditions can be quite clinical, but it was like a wee party just for me. They even had canapés!

“Gary was there and he thanked me for coming down and said he was so happy I had agreed.

“I had been asked to prepare a song and the director, Matt Ryan, asked if I could perform it in the voice of Angela Silveri.”

The character was one half of Almost Angelic, the awful pub duo from The Karen Dunbar Show, the sketch show that ran from 2003-06 after Karen shot to stardom in Chewin’ The Fat.

“Matt laughed hysterically and said he loved the character, and it was then I realised he was joking. I was naïve for an old timer,” said Karen.

“Then the producer, David Pugh, said he’d always wanted to work with me and that he’d seen me in the King’s panto.

“I felt like a seven-year-old, saying ‘thank you’ over and over again.”

Rehearsals began last week on the production, which also stars Fern Britton, Denise Welch and Ruth Madoc in a musical version of the movie telling the true story of Women’s Institute members posing for a discreetly nude calendar.

Entailing 60 weeks on the road, the tour will conclude next summer at the King’s in Glasgow.

Before that, the show takes in Edinburgh (2-13 Oct) and Aberdeen (19 Feb-2 Mar).

Although Karen did a short stint in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert when it came north a few years ago, this is her first UK touring musical production.

“I love a challenge and something new,” said Karen, 47.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this. When people ask me what I am, I don’t know what to say. I’m a comedian, an actor, a performer, an entertainer, an after-dinner speaker – I feel lucky.

“Calendar Girls is in my top 10 films – it never fails to move me no matter how many times I see it.

“This is not a stereotypical musical. It has heart and is emotive.

“We don’t want to get all jazz hands when turning it into a musical, and Gary and Tim Firth have written some beautiful songs.

“I’m one of two in the cast who don’t have to take our tops off – it’s my bottom that’s on display, I’m the one sitting at the piano. But it’s all done tastefully.”

Karen is also looking forward to finally meeting the real Calendar Girls.

“The show is a fantastic challenge for me, but at the root of it all is celebrating the original Calendar Girls’ achievements,” she said.