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Fat Friends new stage show stars The X-Factor winner Sam Bailey, Jodie Prenger and Coronation Street's Kevin Kennedy

By Angela Cole

As the hugely popular TV series Fat Friends comes to the stage for the first time, award winning author and now director Kay Mellor talks about how the characters stayed with her through the years and deserve a big, fat hug.

Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends ran on TV, plus a Christmas special, for four series, and at that point she thought she was done with the characters.

And although she never dreamed it would be a musical to begin with, that’s what it became.

Natalie Anderson, Rachael Wooding, Jodie Prenger and Sam Bailey in Kay Mellor's Fat Friends
Natalie Anderson, Rachael Wooding, Jodie Prenger and Sam Bailey in Kay Mellor's Fat Friends

“I felt at that time it had run its course,” she said. “But instead of wiping the characters from my brain like I usually do, it was always in the back of my mind and I remember thinking whether I could take it to America, to adapt as a theatre piece.

“I never truly thought it could be a musical – because I didn’t think I could write musical lyrics and I know nothing about composing music.”

However, things changed, and she surprised herself by finding, a few years later, that writing the lyrics for the show came easily. “I realised that knowing the characters is halfway through to writing the lyrics – it’s just like writing dialogue, but with a tune in your head.”

She was then introduced to Nick Lloyd Webber and the pair went on to gel.

She said: “He instantly understood the characters and my world. I found his music emotional and he understands what I’m writing. I’m immensely proud of what we’ve developed together.”

Sam Bailey stars in Kay Mellor's Fat Friends with Neil Hurst, which will be staged in Bromley and Dartford
Sam Bailey stars in Kay Mellor's Fat Friends with Neil Hurst, which will be staged in Bromley and Dartford

Fat Friends is also her directorial debut and the first time she had worked with a composer, choreographer and musical supervisor. She said: “Putting on a musical is something that is completely new to me so it is a huge challenge. But I love it!”

The issue of the body conscious world we live in has become even more pronounced in the years since the show was on telly, she said.

She said: “The show looks at how we’re all obsessed with our body image and how everybody wants to lose weight, tone up. I think that’s something that’s only got worse since I wrote the TV series. I’ve brought it up to date though as it explores how things can go viral on the internet.”

Her first musical comes after a more than 40-year career, which started in the 80s writing Coronation Street and she also wrote for Channel 4’s Brookside, as well series including Band of Gold in 1995, Playing the Field in 1998, The Chase in 2006 and The Syndicate in 2012. She was awarded an OBE in 2009.

The cast of Fat Friends the musical
The cast of Fat Friends the musical

FAT FRIENDS: THE SHOW

Fat Friends hit television screens in October 2000, following the lives of a group of overweight friends struggling with the absurdities of modern dieting.

Running on ITV for five years, the show starred Alison Steadman, Gaynor Faye and Lisa Riley and launched the careers of James Corden and Ruth Jones.

Now, Kay Mellor’s hit show comes to the theatre for the first time, appearing at two Kent theatres.

Produced by Joshua Andrews and Adam Spiegel, with original music and songs composed by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, it reunites the friends from the show in an original musical bulging with hopes, humour and heart.

Join the group of lovable characters as they are put through their zumba paces at their local branch of Super Slimmers by the lovelorn Lauren whilst Kelly fantasizes about fitting into the wedding dress of her dreams.

With laughs and romance, the show features Kent singer and former X Factor singer Sam Bailey, stage star Jodie Prenger, Coronation Street’s Kevin Kennedy and Joel Montague, who replaces cricketer Freddie Flintoff for the Kent dates.

DETAILS

Fat Friends will be at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, from Tuesday, January 16 to Saturday, January 20. For tickets call 020 3285 6000 or visit churchilltheatre.co.uk.

The show also goes to the Orchard Theatre, Dartford from Monday, April 9 to Saturday, April 14. To book, call 01322 220000 or visit orchardtheatre.co.uk.

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