By Dave Massey twitter.com/brumhour
Fat Friends – The Musical at New Alexandra Theatre
Confession time. I’ve NEVER SEEN Fat Friends on ITV, despite knowing it ran for many years, as a tv comedy drama by Kay Mellor. It’s now a full on musical, written, directed and with lyrics by Kay Mellor herself and at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham until Saturday 7th April.
Cast-wise I thought Christmas had arrived early, with former England cricket star Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff joining the cast already bursting with X factor winner Sam Bailey, Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton, Natalie Anderson from Emmerdale
The Royal, plus musical star Jodie Prenger. Jodie is no stranger to things with diet themes. She won the second series of The Biggest Loser on ITV in 2006!5z\s
Kelly (Jodie Prenger) is a few months away from her wedding to Kevin (Andrew Flintoff) and while she wants to fit into her two sizes too small wedding dress, she’s not really looking to put the effort in to do it. And she LOVES food. It doesn’t help that her dad Fergus (Played by Coronation Street’s “Curly” Watts aka Kevin Kennedy) owns a chip shop, her mum Betty (Sam Bailey) has managed to lose five stone and is on track to being a slimmer of the year.
Slimming club manager Lauren (Natalie Anderson) is visited by the stern slimming club founder Julia Fleshman (Natasha Hamilton) and her downtrodden assistant Pippa (Rachael Wooding) they crown someone else slimmer of the year and Kelly decides to take matters into her own hands with a local tv presenter Val (Chloe Hart).
Like Billy Elliot which came before and Sting’s The Last Ship which is coming to the New Alexandra Theatre soon: there’s a growing number of working class musicals. Fat Friends is warm, funny and slightly dreamy with a big heart. The set looks like it jumped out of a panto too with the Yorkshire village full of three floor buildings with wonky windows and traditional shops.
So can Andrew Flintoff sing and act? Well… Yes! As slightly clumsy and daft Kevin, who can’t keep a job, he gets two solo numbers all to himself! When compared to the huge vocals of the ladies on stage, he’s not got the biggest voice, but he does flesh out the character of Kevin well, and he’s naturally funny which helps. The audience cheered his arrival on stage and he got huge cheers for his vocals too! Well done Freddie!
Natasha Hamilton’s Julia is deliciously mean and I wanted to hear Natasha sing more, Kevin Kennedy’s Fergus is a self-employed working class hero, Sam Bailey’s vocals are huge and as Betty, delivers her news in a really personal way. Body image and personal wellbeing are big themes here and a subplot between local vicar (Jonathan Halliwell) and slimmers club manager Lauren (Natalie Anderson) is adorably played out. But this is Jodie Prenger’s show and as Kelly she takes ownership of the stage whenever she’s on it.
I loved Fat Friends – The Musical, personally I’d love to see it as a Christmas show! But then there’s Benidorm the musical to look forward to!
I came away from The Alex with a huge smile on my face and think you will too.
See Fat Friends – The Musical at New Alexandra Theatre until Sat 7th April: atgtickets.com/shows/fat-friends-the-musical/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham
This isn’t a sponsored post. Thanks to New Alexandra Theatre for the invite to Fat Friends – The Musical and Thanks Krispy Kreme for the donut!