REVIEW: Fat Friends the Musical | Manchester

Fat Friends is a laugh a minute Musical with enough comedy to make your cheeks hurt.

I knew nothing about this show going in. Nothing. So boy was I pleasantly surprised when I realised it was a good ole’ working class, Northern comedy. I knew then it was guaranteed to be cheeky, cheerful and sometimes crude.

Based in a small town you might just know of called Headingley (LEEDS LEEDS LEEDS), a community fight, and mostly fail, to get fit. The daily woes of dieting. It’s a theme we’ve all experienced in some way, be it ourselves, our friends or family. The struggle is real but the comedy is relevant.

You’ve heard of Slimfast, Slimfit, Atkins and Weight Watchers. You might have even tried them. But this town is addicted to a new initiative, Super Slim. Everyone except Kelly that is.

Like an outrageous musical? Make sure you check out my reviews of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon.

The Main Course

Kelly and Kevin are getting married and their wedding is coming around quickly. She’s excited about her big day until the dress fitting, when the damn thing won’t do up. Trouble is, she’s already spent thousands on it.

It’s during the televised Super Slimmer of the Year awards, of which her serial dieter mother is a nominee, that things take quite a turn. Super Slimmer owner herself, Julia Fleshman, offers to pay for Kelly’s dress on the one condition she loses (an unrealistic amount of) weight using her plan. Here commences mayhem.

I always worry there is a lack of narrative in comedy Musicals like this, but that was not the case at all. From the flirting between the Vicar and wedding shop owner to Kelly’s parents struggling chip shop business, each character had their own story to tell. Kay Mellor weaved them together as neatly as a Jamie Oliver latticed pie. My food puns are delicious, right…

The Dessert

The cast was absolutely stellar. You’ll know quite a few from popular television shows but don’t let that put you off. They were all fantastic.

X-Factor winner Sam Bailey was a doting yet insecure mother figure.Who knew she could act!? I wanted to hear the full power of her voice but her character wouldn’t allow it. Kevin Kennedy, who you might know better as ex-corrie star Curly Watts, perfectly played a tight-fisted but harmless father. And to add to the soap stars, ex-emmerdalian (if that’s a word) Natalie Anderson brought a wonderfully bouncy, bubbly and brightness to the show.

Atomic Kitten star Natasha Hamilton almost shined the brightest as Super Slimmer owner Julia Fleshman. Her hammed up scouse accent, which was as thick as proper gravy and fixed on sour face made her character a scary opponent. On the flip side, TV personalty and cricket legend Freddy Flintoff played a slow witted and charming fiance but didn’t add much more than his chiselled face and household name.

But it was Jodie Prenger, winner of BBC’s I’d do Anything, that stole the show. Loud, proud and fierce with a voice to boot. She made Kelly a force to be reckoned with. It’s clear she was in her element playing this role. The majority of these actors are true Northerners themselves. It’s no doubt they resonated with the whole Musical and you can see how much fun they had on stage.

The After Dinner Entertainment

I can’t finish this review without touching on the music by composer Nick Lloyd Webber. This is a new Musical and there is always a risk that the songs won’t translate. Well, I won’t lie. They aren’t that catchy. I didn’t leave singing them.

But it is the songs that bring most of the ridiculous humour and some softer moments too. Without them this whole show would lose its back bone. There’s a fabulous mix of pop, rock and even a bit of latin. It’s the life and energy of the story. They make sense to the narrative and most importantly, make you smile. Especially the flake number. Just watch out for that…

You can tell that writer and director, Kay Mellor OBE, has written a show that is close to her heart. The characters are genuine, the stories relateable and dialogue perfectly pitched. Quick, witty and brash, with a lot of bad language.

You see, I actually come from this type of background too. I swear I know these characters. I’ve met them. In the streets of my home town growing up. It felt oddly familiar. It made the laughs all that funnier. There was a moment I physically choked. In a good way. Something was shockingly funny. It is genuinely the funniest Musical I have ever seen. Ever.

Fat Friends the Musical is a big fat night out. A belly full of laughs with a massive dollop of Northern cheek. You’d be chuffin’ mad to miss it!


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