Racine Theatre Guild season begins Sept. 11
Graphic illustration by DAN TALSKY, daniel.talsky@journaltimes.com

RACINE — Fancy a show that bares a little bum and mixes a dash of the risque with charity work?

Then the Racine Theatre Guild’s first play of the season is for you.

“Calendar Girls” is hit in England and was made into a popular movie, which starred Helen Mirren. The comedy is based on a true story about how a group of friends came together to buy a new sofa for the family room area in their local hospital.

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They decide on that fundraising goal after the death of one friend’s husband, from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The middle-aged widow Annie Clarke, and her best friend, Chris Harper, end up enlisting the help of four friends to pose nude with them for a calendar — which becomes a smashing success.

“They’ve always done a calendar, but like pieces of fruit,” said Susan Sandvick, director of marketing and development for the Racine Theatre Guild. Then “they decide to do this Austin Powers-style calendar. It’s classy. To date, it’s made over $3 million pounds. That’s so cool.”

The women, who belong to a women’s group, come together to support their friend in the death of her husband. But the play focuses on the sisterhood they share and what they will do to support one another and a common cause, Sandvick said.

Like their ‘Steel Magnolias’

“The idea of the not-size-2, not-perfect-people doing something like this — look at you rockin’ it out!” she said. “It just celebrates the woman’s form and being who you are. They were able to make this huge change.”

The play is one of the best-selling productions in London, she said, and it’s gaining in the U.S.

“It’s kind of like their “Steel Magnolias,” ‘ Sandvick said.

“I love it. The women’s organization reminds me of my mom’s bridge group,” she added.

And the Racine Theatre Guild’s cast members, volunteers and staff posed nude — with strategically placed décor — as a fundraiser of their own. A children’s calendar, featuring a West Highland white terrier dressed up as valet Jeeves or pooches donning babushkas to represent “Fiddler on the Roof,” also are on sale.

The theatre guild states proceeds from the calendar sales will benefit the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life and the Racine Theatre Guild. See Page 3 for Lee Roberts’ Scene & Heard column for more about the calendars.

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Sandvick said both calendars will go on sale on Sept. 11 during opening night for “Calendar Girls.”

Other performances this season

Six more plays and musicals will be performed this season.

“I think we have something for everyone,” Sandvick said. “‘Arsenic and Old Lace” — that’s a classic. It’s just a fun show. I’m a black-and-white film girl. To me, that’s our black-and-white film.”

She said they have tried to mix up the performances, and time them — like “Mary Poppins” around the holidays. That production focuses on family, she said, and is well-suited for that time of year.

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“We start out with naked people, then go to a classic, and then go to ‘Mary Poppins.’ She’s practically perfect in every way,” Sandvick said with a chuckle. “‘Design for Murder’ … (is) a really kind of cool murder mystery-intrigue that’s perfect when it’s cold out.”

Next up is “Jeeves Intervenes.” Sandvick called it “a funny butler farce — in March in Wisconsin when you need a laugh.”

“Bridge to Terabithia,” with performances scheduled in April, is the theatre guild’s outreach show, Sandvick explained. It is a dramatic comedy in which two lonely children create a magical forest kingdom where they may feel safe from the people who don’t understand them. She said the play can be appreciated by anyone. But is geared for youth, typically ranging in age from 8 years old through junior high school.

The big musical finale is “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“It’s another big huge family show,” Sandvick said. “You can bring grandma and your little ones to both. If you’re not familiar with it, you know the songs. ‘Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match.’ ”

The Racine Children’s Theatre also will present four plays this season. “Snow White” is scheduled for Oct. 2 through 4; “Mostly Monster” will be performed between Nov. 13 and 15; “Pinocchio” is set for Feb. 5 through 7; and “Pale Pink Dragon” performances are March 18 through 20. Tickets cost $18 for the season, $20 for four flex passes, or individual tickets cost $6 each.

Sandvick said she thinks this season’s performances will be hits.

“There’s something for everyone the entire season,” she said.

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