The national tour of Kay Mellor’s acclaimed Fat Friends the Musical, which reached Milton Keynes Theatre this week, is winning a whole new set of fans, is spawned from the much-loved hit TV show, but now with original music by Nick Lloyd Webber.
Two of its stars, X Factor winner Sam Bailey and Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy, put down the doughnuts in-between shows to talk about the musical, which is heavy on fun and light on calories.
Sam said she was delighted when approached to take part in the tour. “I did briefly watch the television show and, when my agent contacted me and said they were putting this stage show together, I knew it would be incredible and something I would love to be a part of.”
The former prison officer, and now musical theatre star, plays Betty, the mother of Jodie Prenger’s character, Kelly. “Betty is the protector and quite a strong woman. As a mum, she can be quite assertive but also has her insecurities, just like everybody else does. Betty has lost five stone in weight and she is the one that everybody in the slimming club wants to be like. She is a great character to play – I do think there are a lot of similarities between myself and Betty in some of the things she does and the way she is.”
Sam said that she’s loving the tour. “Every day is a school day when I am here and I am getting the opportunity to work with such amazing people. There is so much that people will relate to in this show. It’s so funny and the show is so much fun. When you watch the show, people will see difficult qualities that they recognise and relate to themselves.
“So many people out there have been on diets and to slimming clubs, salsa classes and fitness classes and they will have so much in common with one or more of the characters on stage.
“So, everybody is going to take home a little piece of it that is really close to home.
“There are some really funny bits, really funny stuff, some of the characters are hilarious. My daughter Joanne who is played by Rachel Wooding is brilliant and her character is so funny.
“I can imagine there is going to be a lot of people laughing. Freddie Flintoff has been doing incredibly well, he is blowing everyone away. He has a lovely character in the show and he portrays it very well”.
Kevin Kennedy plays Fergus, Betty’s husband, and for some it will be a revelation that Coronation Street binman and amateur astronomer, Norman ‘Curly’ Watts, is in a musical.
In fact he has already starred in The Commitments, Chicago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and We Will Rock You.
“A musical is something that I never thought I would get the chance to be involved with.
“I’d been involved in bands, and stuff like that, and it wasn’t until when I left Coronation street 13 years ago that I suddenly found myself in the world of musicals.
“I find that a challenge all the time. Every musical I have done has been a bit challenging in one way or the other.
“People are going to love this. It’s great fun, and we’re having a good time doing it, and I think that that will come across on stage when we are performing. It’s a brand-new musical which is always a joy.
“Fergus is a really good bloke and he’s a very funny dad. He is a proper dad; hardworking, bad language, but he cares for both of his kids, Kelly and Joanne, and his wife, Betty.
“He is the kind of dad that takes the mickey out of his daughters but will always be there for them.
“I have really enjoyed doing the dancing – which was a challenge to me because I dance a lot like my dad! There is a very strong cast in this show and we are all very supportive each other.
“We’re all in it together and there was nothing more obvious than that when we were rehearsing. I think that’s brilliant and shows when we are on stage”.
Kevin was enticed into musicals by friend, Jonathan Wilkes, who was appearing in the Rocky Horror Show.
“I didn’t really have an idea on what musical theatre was about. Then Rocky Horror suddenly popped up and I was asked if I would like to play the narrator in that.
“Johnny, who has been a friend of mine for years, was playing Frank’n’furter, and he encouraged me to take the part.
“I was a little unsure, because I didn’t know that much about musicals, but he said how much I would enjoy it. So, I did, and it was great fun”.
Packed full of warmth, love and weight loss Fat Friends the Musical reunites a group of foodie friends in show brimming with hope, humour and heart.
Starring alongside Sam and Kevin is Jodie Prenger, Elaine C Smith, Natasha Hamilton, Natalie Anderson and Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff.