Fat Friends at Leeds Grand Theatre – an underwhelming show
For fans of Kay Mellor, you’d expect her new musical Fat Friends to be an absolute hit, full of intriguing plot twists and fantastic characters. At best, it’s a little bit of fun but, at worst, it’s extremely irritating.
Essentially the story centres around Kelly, who’s getting married in six weeks but can’t fit into her dream dress. One viral video, support from a slimming group and a helping hand of supplements later and Kelly finally makes it to her wedding day, realising that she’s big and beautiful and doesn’t care who knows it.
There are a few tenuous subplots throughout – the Jewish slim club leader Lauren falling in love with a Vicar, Kelly’s mum suffering financially after the family chip shop burns down and the fame-hungry Julia Fleshman praying on Kelly to make her diet world-famous. It’s all a little bitty, not helped by the atrocious song lyrics. Kay Mellor may be a great TV writer, but writing for stage and song is a different art form and she misses the mark entirely. They’re neither funny nor witty and the melodies written by Nick Lloyd Webber are bland and hard to enjoy. It’s certainly not a piece of work that comes close to his famous father’s calibre.
The cast are strong, and though Jodie Prenger is far too old to play Sam Bailey’s daughter (there’s a real-life age difference between them of two years…) she does play the part with humour. Jonathan Halliwell is sweet as the vicar Paul and Neil Hurst provides the most humour as the loveable Alan. There’s a strange chemistry between his and Sam Bailey’s character, though this is never explored. Andrew Flintoff is surprisingly sweet as Kevin – being on stage clearly doesn’t come naturally to him, and his solo songs are excruciating to watch, but I actually really like his character and think he plays the part well as he’s the only character I really root for.
For the most part the characters are stereotypical and annoying, and the plot is thin and predictable. I’m not really sure what this show has to offer, but if you’re a Kay Mellor fan it might be worth going along to see what all the fuss is all about.
For reference, a ‘standing ovation’ really doesn’t count if the cast sing “get up on your feet” really loudly until the audience feels obliged to leave their seats.
Catch the show at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday 2nd December.