Posts Tagged ‘Sam Bailey’

Kay Mellor is a prolific writer of populist TV drama and Fat Friends was one of her early successes, running to four series over five years. I never saw it. It’s also famous for connecting Ruth Jones and James Corden, who went on to create the hugely successful sitcom Gavin & Stacy together, taking cast members Alison Steadman and Sheridan Smith with them. Now thirteen years on, Mellor has turned it into a musical with a score by Nick Lloyd Webber.

It revolves around slimming class Super Slimmer, franchised by Julie Fleshman, run by Lauren, who also runs the wedding dress shop. Betty, who’s lost five stone, is expected to win Slimmer of the Year but she doesn’t. Her daughter Kelly, soon to be married, shows off her flesh proudly, which her sister films and it goes viral. Fleshman decides to exploit Kelly and challenges her to lose enough weight to fit into the wedding dress of her dreams, in which case she will pay for both the dress and the wedding itself, which is handy as her parents uninsured Fish & Chip shop has burnt down leaving them stony broke! Kelly is a hopeless dieter so Fleshman helps her with some dubious pills. Will she make it?

The plotting is a bit clunky, but it’s a good enough story for musical theatre with it’s heart in the right place and a worthy body image message. The songs, in a whole range of styles, are OK though I’m not expecting to remember them tomorrow. It’s a touring cast to put bums on seats with TV talent show winners aplenty, a Corrie legend and a former pop star for good measure. In some cities there’s a cricketer too, but we were spared that in Dartford.

There were some very strong vocal performances, notably from an almost unrecognisable blonde Jodie Prenger as Kelly and Sam Bailey as her mum Betty; both acted well too. Natalie Anderson and Jonathan Halliwell were good as the Jewish slimming class leader and young Anglican vicar who fancy each other. Joel Montague is a very likeable Kevin, Kelly’s intended, also with good vocals (I do wonder what Freddie Flintoff makes of this role), as is Kevin ‘Curly’ Kennedy in the less demanding role of dad Fergus. Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton makes a serviceable baddie as Fleshman.

I didn’t take to the Orchard Theatre Dartford, where the show seemed somewhat distant, or its noisy audience, or to Dartford itself come to think of it, but I’m sure my knee will recover eventually, and I’m glad I caught the tour. If they’re planning to take it ‘up west’ they’ll need to up their game a bit. It’s a first musical for writer / lyricist / director Mellor and only the second for Lloyd-Webber Jnr and that does show a bit.

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