Fans of Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends, which originally hit the small screen in 2000, scooping up a hand full of awards and launching the television career of James Corden, will no doubt be delighted by its reincarnation on the musical theatre scene.
For those who are unfamiliar with the lives of the Super Slimmers, the style and sentiment might seem somewhat dated.
Set along the Headingley high street that is home to “Big and Battered”, the Simpson family fish and chip shop, the plot centres around larger than life Kelly (Jodie Prenger), whose impending wedding to loveable dope Kevin (Joel Montague), puts her in a tight situation: her dream wedding dress won’t fit! Does she join her mother (Sam Bailey) at the local slimming club or does she stick to her opinion that “bones ain’t sexy. Flesh is fabulous!”. The financial stakes are raised when unemployment and a chip shop fire eat through the family savings and slimming club founder Julia Fleshman (Laura Mansell) sees the chance to cash in on some self-promotion on Look North.
Mellor has written and directed Fat Friends, The Musical. The dialogue orbits obsessively around food, weight and being beautiful for your man on your wedding day. For some it might feel a little past its sell by date, but it is also stuffed with tasty one-liners that have the audience roaring. Mellor’s lyrics lead naturally on from the dialogue and are presented in a number of styles from Latin, pop, northern soul, disco and soft rock by composer Nicholas Lloyd Webber.
Prenger is a heavy weight of musical talent, belting out the numbers and deftly handling dialogue in the lead role. Bailey plays the hard-working northern mam with convincing physicality and her duet with Prenger in act two is a welcome reminder of her vocal talents. Patriarch Fergus is delivered with no-nonsense warmth and humour by Kevin Kennedy whose witty solo on the challenges of running a chip shop is a particular audience favourite. Natalie Anderson as anxiety-ridden wedding shop owner and slimming club leader Lauren and Jonathan Halliwell as Paul, the vicar blessed with a talent for dance, Zumba their way into each other’s arms and into the audience’s hearts. Rachel Wooding excels in comic timing as both Pippa and Joanne. Other cast members swell the ranks ensuring that this show appeals to a wide demographic.
Dieters will no doubt be drawn to this musical but be warned: all that talk of food may well leave you hankering for a big bag of chips after the show!
Fat Friends, The Musical continues at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 28th April 2018.