Book, Lyrics and Director: Kay Mellor
Music: Nick Lloyd Webber
Musical Director: Michael Bradley
Reviewer: Helen Jones
It’s 18 years since Kay Mellor’s comedy-drama Fat Friends arrived on our TV screens, and now the premise has been modernised and rewritten to create Fat Friends – The Musical. The principal characters are the same; fun, curvy Kelly, her rather slow fiance Kevin, parents Betty and Fergus, local vicar Paul and wedding shop owner and leader of the slimming group Lauren.
Kevin and Kelly are only six weeks away from their wedding and the wedding shop has ordered in Kelly’s dream dress. There’s just one problem, despite ordering the largest size, it doesn’t do up! Cue Kelly being determined that this is her dress no matter what. But being determined still doesn’t mean she will join the local slimming class, until she is challenged by the woman who developed the diet plan, Julia Fleshman, to lose the weight and then she will pay for the dress. The narrative has the usual ups and downs, with the ultimate happy ending.
The cast has a host of well-known reality tv names in many of the main roles. Betty is played by X Factor winner Sam Bailey, she has a good voice but perhaps isn’t shown to her best advantage in this show. Natalie Anderson, the winner of Your Face Sounds Familiar in 2013, plays Lauren. She is excellent in the role and has great charisma and comic timing to go alongside an amazing singing voice.
Let It Shine finalist Jonathan Halliwell is an engaging Paul, and while his voice might not be the strongest, he carries his songs well and is charismatic. Ex-Coronation Street actor Kevin Kennedy is a pleasant surprise making dad Fergus a nicely rounded character while ex-Atomic Kitten singer Natasha Hamilton has fun with the role of Julia. A strong ensemble provides great support and more minor roles.
As Kelly, Jodie Prenger, best known for winning the role of Nancy in the BBC talent show I’d Do Anything, is allowed to do what she does best, a lighthearted fun character with huge personality and a voice which outshines everyone. Her natural stage presence and charm make her a natural in the role. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Andrew Flintoff’s Kevin. Playing the buffoon requires good comic timing which he is somewhat lacking, likewise, his vocal ability would benefit from being developed somewhat. That said, there is no denying he is personable on stage.
Composer Nick Lloyd Webber has created a variety of tunes, from light poppy numbers to decent ballads, most of the songs are easily forgettable but there are a couple of numbers that stand out. However, Kay Mellor, one of the wittiest female writers around, has adapted her original idea with great skill and given us a book filled with laughs and innuendo.
Fat Friends – The Musical might not be the most intellectual of night’s out, but it gives great entertainment and a true feel-good factor. That combined with the strong cast make it well worth the trip to see it.
Runs until 24 March 2018 | Image: Contributed