Kay Mellor’s baby, that had been three years in the making, captivated the audience with a witty script and feel good vibes. Here are my thoughts on the world premiere of Fat Friends the Musical.
For those that haven’t seen the sitcom, Fat Friends was originally award-winning TV drama that centred around the lives of a group of friends on a weight loss journey. Set in present day Headingley, the musical revolves around Kelly and Kevin’s wedding and her mission to fit into her dream dress, which is an all too familiar concept for many.
The curtain lifted to reveal an energetic Zumba class moving and grooving in a bid to shed the pounds. It was a fun, lively and comical way to open the show, which set the tone for the rest of the musical.
Protagonist Kelly, played by Jodie Prenger, winner of BBC 1’s I’d Do Anything back in 2008, is a typical Leeds lass. She has a strong, feisty personality and a vulnerable side. Her vocals, lack of a filter and comedic interpretation of the script are wonderful and prove what a great casting she was. Ever sceptical, the broad bridezilla sings numbers like, Diets are Crap, noting the joyless circle of yoyo dieting, until eventually giving in when she’s made an offer she can’t refuse.
Meanwhile, a modern day Romeo and Juliet forbidden love story is going on. Also, mum Betty, played by Sam Bailey, former winner of The X Factor, is worrying about why she has mysteriously started putting on the pounds after a 5 stone loss…
In true Yorkshire fashion, a chippy is central to the plot and the set. It’s the place of work for the mother and daughter duo desperate to budge the bulge, making their journey all the more difficult and their story all the more motivating for the Look North sofa.
Freddie Flintoff’s stage debut had been in the headlines this week and there was a lot of hype surrounding his portrayal of groom Kevin. The former England cricked captain who has already tried his hand at presenting, broadcasting and boxing, proved just how versatile he can be and that his injury will not define the rest of his career.
However, his vocals were overpowered by the phenomenal orchestra during his rendition of The Only Fool is Me. This should be altered over the next performances so that the audience can really hear his great, and somewhat unexpected, singing voice.
Fat Friends the Musical touches on real issues such as: body image, self-esteem, fat and skinny shaming, and how airbrushing is rife within the industry. The love who you are theme is as relevant today as they were 15 years ago when the television show’s finale aired. Directed by prolific writer Kay Mellor and produced by Joshua Andrews and Adam Spiegel, with original music and songs composed by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, it’s no wonder the show received a standing ovation.
It is impossible not to leave the theatre feeling more Northern than ever, especially since the cast were prominently locals. The show is like Mamma Mia crossed with the Hale and Pace’s Yorkshire airlines. It is fresh, funny and fabulously original. It is the ultimate feel good musical that can be enjoyed and related to by all Yorkshire folk.
I have no doubts that it will be appreciated by everyone else once they get past the accent barrier, but only time will tell how long that will take.