â€œFat Friends-the Musicalâ€ is Kay Mellorâ€™s update on her millennial TV series of that name and follows the same storyline.
Kelly – roundly played by Jodie Prenger – is to be married in 6 weeks time and will not fit her wedding dress by a wide margin. The fact that father, Fergus, owns a chip shop does not help. However mother – a chipper Elaine C Smith – is in line to be Slimmer of the Year in her slimming club. So, when the national head of the club (stylish Natasha Hamilton) comes to judge the competition, she is so impressed by feisty Kelly she challenges her to fit the dress in 6 weeks, for an all wedding expenses paid reward. Since this is well nigh impossible, steps, some dance, some illegal, must be taken.
Cue many lively exercise and dance routines, right from the start. With music by Lloyd Webber (Nick, son of Andrew), and lyrics by Mellor herself there is a wide range of musical styles in the show from hip-swaying Latino, northern soul, classic rock and disco. Itâ€™s toe-tapping stuff, quite lyrical at times. No number stood out to be hummable as we leave, but given familiarity there could be a gem or two around.
Itâ€™s a show very much targeted to the original TV audience. The cast are well known soap and entertainment names. The cadences and speech are very Headingly, very Leeds, and the likeable if slightly one-dimensional characters face recognisable everyday challenges – redundancy, wife leaving, longing to find love, drop in business, late pregnancy. Not to forget the stag night, the hen night and the trauma of wedding preparations. Most scenes rely on cliche and predictability, the development of plot can be a little thin, but the tribute to Chocolate in Act 2 is outstandingly staged and totally flaky. This could be the showstopper.
The choreography by Karen Bruce is exuberant and energetic, the set and costumes by Bretta Gerecke colourful and lively.
All in all a grand night out that should be rounded of by a fish supper or a deep fried Mars bar.
Edinburgh Playhouse until April 21st.
Kings Theatre Glasgow April 30th until May 5th
(Photos by Helen Maybanks)