Natalie Anderson and Elaine C Smith shape up in Fat Friends - The Musical
Natalie Anderson and Elaine C Smith shape up in Fat Friends - The Musical

Belly laughs aplenty with Fat Friends musical

‘Bones aren’t sexy! Flesh is fabulous!’ declares Kelly, the lead characters in Fat Friends – The Musical, as the spin-off from the early noughties television series made its Scottish debut at Edinburgh’s Playhouse last night.

Raucous, well-crafted, and with an earthy (and occasionally downright crude) edge, this production had the crowd on its feet by the end of the performance.

The impressive cast is built around the substantial lead couple of Kelly (the lovely Jodie Prenger, who played Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver!) and Kevin (Joel Montague, from School of Rock and Funny Girl).

That duo are bolstered by the inclusion of some well-kent faces – notably Kevin Kennedy (Curly from Coronation Street), that matriarch of the Scottish boards Elaine C Smith, and former Atomic Kitten Natasha Hamilton as the evil Julia Fleshman.

Written and directed by Kay Mellor, the show is set in a church hall in Leeds where Lauren (the wonderful Natalie Anderson) is a frustrated 34-year-old Jewish virgin with a hot body whose biological clock is ticking and who hankers after vicar Paul (Jonathan Halliwell) with whom she runs slimming and Zumba classes at the local church hall.

Natalie Anderson and Elaine C Smith shape up in Fat Friends – The Musical

The premise of the script is the inevitable conflict between the joy of being a fattie and eating what you want, versus the pressure to be unrealistically thin and healthy.

The whole plot coalesces around Kelly’s desire to have a specific dress for her wedding, only to find out that she can’t squeeze into The Dress unless she sheds a whole ton of timber in six weeks.

From that acorn springs a decent-sized sapling of a show. It is, to be honest, a tad formulaic and at times verges on sappiness, but there’s an open-hearted joie de vivre about the show that tugs at the heartstrings.

The building blocks are all in place:  Mellor’s acerbic wit shines through, composer Nick Lloyd Webber’s cheery pop score trips easily along, while Bretta Gerecke’s high street set looks more Montmartre than Headingley.

 Songs like Diets are Crap and Big and Battered not only made the audience smile, they even provoked some belly-laughs. Some of them were even mine.

Edinburgh Playhouse (19-21 April); Glasgow’s King’s Theatre (30 April – 5 May) and His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen (21 – 26 May).