Reviewed by Louise Watts
What do you get if you combine a group of outstanding actors, an award-winning writer, an incredible composer, an Olivier award winning choreographer and an amazing musical director and orchestra?
Answer: Fat Friends the Musical!
I attended the Orchard Theatre in Dartford last evening (9 April 2018) with my lifelong friend for the opening night of Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends the Musical. We were really excited as this had the promise to be something outstanding. The cast were well known names, the music had been composed by Nick Lloyd Webber and the musical written by Kay Mellor OBE – how could this be anything but a success?
The musical is based on Kay Mellor’s TV series fat Friends which ran from 2000-2005. Having had a baby during that time, I remember watching the programme avidly feeling the pain of all these women who attended slimming club every week desperate for the figure they dreamed about and looking at every possible way in which you could get there but still eat everything you wanted.
Roll on 10-15 years and here it is adapted for stage as a musical. As soon as the show opened, we were in hysterics. Lycra, Zumba, ladies and men all attending fat club run by a super slim leader who advises you to eat less and drink water as you may not be hungry, just thirsty! Anyone who has battled with their weight (like myself and my friend) will know that when you want chocolate a glass of water will not hit the same spot!
The lead role of Kelly – a young girl about to get married desperate to fit in the wedding dress of her dreams was played by the amazing Jodie Prenger. Shot to fame after landing the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh production of Oliver! She has now earnt her place as a leading actress on stage having starred in many stage productions since then. I am just grateful for the show that discovered her because if it hadn’t we would have missed the chance to see this beautiful woman performing. She was outstanding and truly believable.
Kelly’s Mum Betty, a super slimmer herself was played by the talented Sam Bailey, another example of amazing talent that would potentially have remained undiscovered if it were not for the world of reality TV. Absolutely hilarious in role and an incredible performer.
Natasha Hamilton played the rather corrupt Super slimmer founder Julia. Natasha found fame 20 years ago as part of the highly successful girl band Atomic Kitten. Natasha was amazing as Julia and she can certainly carry off the part of a shrewd business lady!
The final big name amongst the lady actors is Natalie Anderson who played the slimming group leader Lauren, a Jewish virgin desperate to find the man of her dreams. Natalie was best known to me as Stella Davenport in The Royal. Watching her on stage was an absolute pleasure and I am glad to say she did eventually meet the man of her dreams and I hope they live happily ever after.
As if the cast of women wasn’t strong enough the men were equally as well known and deserving of praise for their performances. Kevin Kennedy played Kelly’s dad who was in for a few surprises of his own as the story evolved! Kevin to me will always be Curly Watts from Coronation Street but actually he has developed a rather large theatre repertoire over his career and has a lovely singing voice.
Joel Montague played Kelly’s fiancée. He was a simple man but a genuine man who just wanted to marry Kelly just as she was. Joel was a brilliant performer and would make the perfect husband for any girl.
I could write about the cast all day and I feel a little bad for not listing every single cast member as they were all amazing and the show wouldn’t be the success it is without them. I must however mention Paul Brangan who stepped up to play the role of Paul the Vicar due to illness. He was wonderful. His accent is to die for and his voice was out of this world. He made Lauren go weak at the knees and if I am honest, I am glad I was sitting down too as he had the same effect on me!
The story itself was simple but hilarious. The jokes and general banter had the audience in fits of laughter. Complimented by some rather ingenious songs, my personal favourites being “Corset Song” and “Chocolate”. Full credit to the happy music must go to the wonderful Nick Lloyd Webber who I hope to see a lot more of going forward. He is certainly one to watch in the future. Coming from an incredibly talented family, the expectations are high, but I have no doubt he will continue to make his name in his own right.
The set was simple but very clever and I particularly liked the wedding shop and the church which could be adapted very swiftly and worked perfectly. Costumes were hilarious especially the lycra outfits.
The running time for this show was a little under 3 hours with an interval. It did not seem that long and there was never more than a couple of minutes without laughter from the audience. The show was as I had expected… absolutely hilarious and incredible fun to watch.
The Orchard Theatre was a delightful venue, with a little under 1000 seats, it was an absolute pleasure to see it packed out with people who had all come to have a fabulous evening. The staff were friendly as usual and there are great facilities for drinks and snacks available. Parking is easy in the multi storey close by and at a flat rate of £3 for the evening, it couldn’t get any easier.
I would recommend this show to anybody who has ever experienced the joy of fat club and the funny moments that brings or anyone who wants a laugh a minute evening out. You will not be disappointed!
Tickets cost from £22.50 to £44.50 (booking fees may apply).
Fat Friends – The Musical is at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford from 9-14 April 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01322 220000.
The Orchard Theatre, Home Gardens, Dartford, DA1 1ED | 01322 220000