Reviewed by Kim Bickerdike
I was really excited to see this show and had been waiting for it to come to the North of England for months. With its all-star line-up and based on a popular and hilarious television show from 2005, I was intrigued to see how this would translate onto the stage and be turned into a musical.
The opening scene is an energetic Zumba class with the local Super Slimmer’s group based in a church hall in Headingley, Leeds. The story follows the main character Kelly (played by Jodie Prenger – the winner on BBCs I’d Do Anything) who is due to marry Kevin (played by fellow Prestonian and ex England cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff) in 6 weeks’ time and needs to lose weight to fit into her dream wedding dress. Jodie Prenger is no stranger to being on the stage and belting out powerful songs. She fully embraced the role of Kelly and was comfortable bounding across the stage in a lycra clad outfit. She sang all of her songs with gusto and took the audience on her weight loss journey full of trials and tribulations. Freddie Flintoff’s character was Kevin, who was struggling to hold down a job and even burns down the chippy. I enjoyed Freddie’s singing including his solo performance although at times he looked slightly uncomfortable on stage. As Freddie is a fun and much-loved character, it was entertaining to watch him try his hand at something new and different
The story also focusses on Kelly’s family, her mum Betty (played by Sam Bailey X Factor Winner) was also a member of Super Slimmer’s and her dad Fergus (played by Kevin Kennedy, the much-loved Curly Watts from Coronation Street) owned the local chip shop called ‘Big and Battered’ they both delivered convincing performances. Sam Bailey had a number of solo performances and sang them with ease. Kevin Kennedy too, impressed me with his singing and of course his acting was of a high standard.
Julia Fleshman (played by Natasha Hamilton from Atomic Kitten) is the manager of Super Slimmer’s and is encouraging Kelly to lose weight although her methods aren’t exactly ethical. Natasha played this role brilliantly and really brought the character to life. She sang strikingly and was definitely the pantomime villain of the show. I really enjoyed her performance and look forward to seeing her in another stage production.
As well as the famous cast members there were also a number of less well-known actors and these performances were the ones that stuck out for me. The local vicar Paul (played by Jonathan Halliwell) is in love with the weight obsessed Super Slimmer’s leader and provides some hilarious one liners. Kelly’s feisty and straight-talking sister Joanne (played by Rachael Wooding) is continuously mocking her sister’s weight and these two characters were the ones who had me laughing the most and are definitely my performance highlights.
The set was a small street set up and was quirky and original. I really liked all the different elements to it although there were too many set changes for me and at times it felt a bit erratic and clumsy.
As this was a musical there were plenty of fun and upbeat songs although there didn’t need to be as many and more time could have been given to the story and acting performances.
Overall this is a fun and energetic show with a humorous spin on weight loss with plenty of songs throughout. If you’re looking for a light-hearted show in Blackpool then this is the one for you.
Tickets cost from £17.50 to £49.50 (booking fees may apply).
Fat Friends The Musical is at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool from 29 May to 2 June 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk or call the box office on 0844 856 1111.
Winter Gardens & Opera House, 97 Church Street, Blackpool, FY1 1HL | 0844 856 1111