Fat Friends: The Musical – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By @Steve Crabtree, May 2018
Kay Mellor wrote the TV series Fat Friends an incredible 18 years ago, and when it was adapted for the stage in 2017 it came with fanfare and excitement. And this week that same excitement hits the Bradford Alhambra, with a run that lasts until Saturday 19th May.
Set in Headingley, Leeds, the Fat Friends community are a friendly and funny bunch, who all seem to be at various stages of plumpness. And for the Bradford audience, the characters come complete with true working class West Yorkshire values and accents, making it all the more personal and relatable. That’s whether you devour the odd cream cake or battered sausage on a regular basis or not.
‘Headingley’ is a road. We’ve got a fish ‘n’ chip shop, pizza parlour, wedding shop, cake shop and a church. It’s the perfect back drop for the story, where the occasional slight adaptation of certain scenery elements is done swiftly.
It’s a tale of confidence, love, temptation and happiness. Right from the get-go, the on-stage energy sets the tone for the two hours and twenty-minute treat that’s served up for us.
Including X-Factor winner Sam Bailey (Betty) and Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy (Fergus), the production comes with a fantastic cast, rich with household names.
I was amazed at former cricketer Freddie Flintoff’s ability on stage. His portrayal of the lovable, but maybe slightly docile Kevin was a hit with the crowd, and especially left the ladies bowled over. There was an entertaining connection between him and Jodie Prenger, who played his “fianky” Kelly with aplomb. And a special mention goes to Rachel Wooding for the funniest laughs of the night in her role as Kelly’s sister Joanne (and making the role of Pippa a bit of a show stealer too!).
We have a really nice balance of storyline that isn’t over the top with songs. However, each member of the cast who takes a vocal can hit and hold a note, with every number fitting nicely in to the story.
For me, Natalie Anderson stars. Playing the wedding shop owner and slimming club leader Lauren, the former Emmerdale actress shows what an all-rounder she is with a beautiful singing voice, some impressive comedy timing and a really good stage presence. Fizzing with energy, she makes for a convincing Zumba instructor too!
“You will never look at a Cadbury’s Flake in the same way again”
There’s a touch of emotion sprinkled in here and there. Nothing that turns the performance in to something difficult or too deep, though. We’re soon back on the up-beat, and Fat Friends is a feel-good, laugh-a-minute musical that had a jam-packed Bradford Alhambra in hysterics throughout. The dry wit of Kevin Kennedy never failed to raise a chuckle, the same with Neil Hurst playing Alan. The ensemble team had their moments too.
I remember the term “sexual chocolate” was coined in the Eddie Murphy film Coming To America. But watch out for a scene in Fat Friends that will make sure you will never look at a Cadbury’s Flake in the same way again… especially the ladies!
All in all, Fat Friends is a great night out. The storyline is simple, fun and definitely reaches in to the heart of the North. If you like to laugh a lot – and who doesn’t? – it’s a show that really shouldn’t be missed.
images: Helen Maybanks