Monday, 26 March 2018

“Fat Friends – The Musical”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Kay Mellor’s very successful TV show is now a full blown musical with an all-star cast. The setting is a slimming club in Leeds but goes from Zumba classes to fish and the chip shop to the wedding dress shop. The sets, and costumes are brilliantly designed by Bretta Gerecke.
Musical theatre star Jodie Prenger, X Factor winner Sam Bailey,, Natasha Hamilton from pop band Atomic Kitten, Emmerdale actress Natalie Anderson, Kevin Kennedy, best known as Curly Watts from Coronation Street and making his stage debut is ex Cricketer, Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff.
There’s so much humour within slimming clubs, as the TV version of the show has proven, so it was a natural progression to take this concept on the road and add some songs to the story.But it also gives a very positive message about body shaming and being comfortable in your own skin.
Flintoff bowls us all over as Kevin Murgatroyd, who received a very warm welcome as soon as he walked on stage. Kevin is due to marry Kelly, played by Jodie Prenger, whose aim is to fit into that wedding dress with just six weeks to go, the main aim of the musical.
I know that there were some doubts about Flintoff being In a musical but he can sing and has a flair for comedy. His role is not overworked and Kay Mellor had given him just enough to show that he could be handy in future theatre roles. And he is an obvious hit with the women in the audience. he has a bit of a folky feel about his singing, and I can see the Andrew Flintoff Album on the cards, as his singing voice is not an unpleasant one. he'll never be an Alfie Boe but he can carry a tune. In a cast of singers, he held his own.
Natalie Anderson is the “unlucky in love” Lauren who eventually finds her Mr Right, or “Mr Someone”, as the song goes. I am a massive Emmerdale fan, and while I knew that Natalie had a good singing voice, I was pleasantly surprised to hear she has a very strong musical theatre voice, as well as a lovely recording voice.
Sam Bailey plays Kelly’s mum, Betty and proves to be a credible actress. Very natural, but that's no secret as she is building a nice CV of musical theatre work.
Kevin Kennedy is the chip shop owner, Kelly's father and husband to Betty, Fergus, and provides a good portion of the laughs. Kevin has also had a singing career and it wasn't that long ago that he last appeared at the Nottingham Theatre Royal in musical theatre.
Natasha Hamilton is the villain of the piece as the boss of the slimming club, "Super Slimmers". Looking like a red-headed Cruella de Ville Natasha also reveals a very credible acting skill, and a very pleasant surprise, She'd be a great panto villain.
Jonathan Halliwell plays the vicar, Paul. Paul has quite a CV of musical theatre and classic theatre under his belt as well as having a very pleasing vocal tone. I could see him in "Blood Brothers".
Neil Hurst plays Alan, who's wife has gone off on a girly holiday but we discover through the play that she is not coming back. He could be seen as a bit of a loser but after he starts to lose the pounds , due to his wife's shock news, he starts to become the winner. Some nice comic lines for Alan throughout.
Racheal Wooding, as Kelly's sister, Joanne, is a fiesty one. I loved her wicked wit and no nonsense, often crude approach to her sister's position she finds herself in, but fiercely protective of her. But it's all done in the best possible taste - as long as you have a sense of humour. A lovely character piece.
Chloe Hart plays the "Look North" TV host and was drafted in to report on the slimming challenge who becomes one of the girls
All the songs have been written for the musical with the music being by Nick Lloyd-Webber – where have I heard that surname before? – and the lyrics by Kay Mellor, so you can expect great tunes with witty lyrics. A brilliant soundtrack with plenty of catchy songs,and a wonderfully saucy comic scene all around chocolate.
The message in this play is brilliant. We should all love ourselves, whatever size we are, we can all be beautiful, which is the big song in this feel good musical. After all “bones aren’t sexy – flesh is fabulous”.
The casting is genius due to the mix of West End experience, TV experience and singers. Every actor is highlighted and their talents used. There are no fillers in this musical, just in case anyone disputes Andrew Flintoff’s casting. If you want to get in to see Mr Flintoff’s talent, make sure you get your tickets early as he’s only in this musical until Thursday 29 March 2018, when Joel Montague takes over.
A great feel good comedy musical with plenty of belly laughs, a brilliant soundtrack, packed with a talented cast who have some very funny lines to deliver, but this is Kay Mellor, which for me says it all and delivers every thing I had expected from a brilliantly observant writer.
If you're in any doubt, I loved it, and loved the message it sent out. I loved the fun, I loved the songs, and I loved giving this show a standing ovation at the end, along with most of the audience tonight.
“Fat Friends – The Musical” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 31 March 2018

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