Hundreds of everyday Kiwi women are showing plenty of naked ambition to join a world record bid.

The release of the amateur rights to perform the hit play Calendar Girls has sparked unprecedented interest from theatre groups around the country.

"It is the biggest response we've ever had to a production," says Bill Griffith, from the Play Bureau in New Plymouth, which licenses the show in New Zealand. "We've been deluged with applications from Dargaville to Balclutha and everywhere in between."

Such is the worldwide demand to stage the play that the release window has been extended from 12 to 18 months. Rival theatre companies overseas have even been fighting over putting it on at the same venues.


The producers want to establish a world record for the most productions of one play and donate a percentage of the box office to leukaemia and lymphoma research. Thirty New Zealand groups have so far applied to stage the play.

Calendar Girls is based on the true story of a group of Yorkshirewomen who, in 1999, posed naked for a calendar in aid of charity after the death of one of their husbands from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A 2003 film version starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters made almost US$100 million.

Among the first to strut their stuff in New Zealand will be the brave women cast in a production on Auckland's North Shore. The Company Theatre group in Belmont is auditioning for 10 women - and four blokes - for an extended run of Calendar Girls at the Rose Centre, starting in April next year. A few enthusiasts got together this week over some cupcakes from local cafe Little & Friday.

Director Kathy Gent is in no doubt about what she is looking for at the trials in two months: "Women of 40-plus with some stage experience and who don't need to have figures like supermodels.

"Oh, and not being too shy would certainly be an advantage."

Audacious audtioners

Liz Brown, 39: "With four kids, I've been getting my boobs out, on and off, for the past nine years. Doing it all again in front of a crowd wouldn't faze me at all."

Julie Collis, 59, says husband Peter is fully supportive. "He has been involved in other productions where I've played an artist's model or been in a bedroom scene."