Dieting drama Fat Friends shapes up for musical debut

Jodie PrengerThis November a major new musical re-shaping of popular ITV drama Fat Friends will make its debut in Leeds, the hometown of its creator, top TV writer Kay Mellor.

Written and directed by prolific Mellor and with original music by Nicholas Lloyd Webber, Fat Friends – The Musical will star West End favourite Jodie Prenger when it receives its world premiere at Leeds Grand Theatre on 7 November (before touring the UK in 2018).

Unveiling details of the show’s four-week debut run Mellor said: “I’m absolutely thrilled for the premiere of Fat Friends – The Musical to be held at Leeds Grand Theatre. Not only is Leeds my home town, but it’s where I set the television series and the stage musical. I love Leeds with a passion and the people of Leeds inspire me every day, so it fills me with pride to know that the musical will be seen by the people of Leeds first.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with Nick Lloyd Webber who absolutely gets my characters and world. The musical is funny and sad with a big story and some meaty and memorable songs; together I think we’ve created something rather unique.”

The story of the lives and loves of a group of dieters, Fat Friends first arrived on television nearly 17 years ago. With a cast that included Alison Steadman, Sheridan Smith and Mellor’s own daughter, Emmerdale and Coronation Street actress Gaynor Faye, the show was credited with launching the careers of James Corden and Ruth Jones.

Explaining her decision to transform her hit TV show into a stage musical, Mellor said: “About once or twice a week I get asked if Fat Friends is going to come back on the television. I’m always flattered that people loved the characters and premise and I thought there could be a musical using those characters and looking at weight – it’s such a topical subject matter, more so today than ever.”

The co-writer of the musical The Little Prince, Lloyd Webber added: ‘It’s been such a treat to collaborate with Kay on Fat Friends. The musical world of the show is bright, fresh, catchy and poppy, with tenderness as well as music to move to. My hope is that I’ve written some songs that are at once accessible yet original with as big a heart as the wonderful piece Kay has written.”

A star since winning the role of Nancy in the 2008 TV talent search for the leading lady in the West End’s revival of Oliver!, the new show’s leading lady, Prenger said: “I am over the moon to be starring in Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends – The Musical. I have been a huge fan of Kay’s for so long – she is the most brilliant writer, director and just one hell of a lovely lady that you could ever wish to work with.

“I loved Fat Friends when it was such a successful TV series so to see some of those characters come to life on stage is a joy, and I am honoured to be playing the wonderful Kelly (the role played by Jones in the series). And what a thrill for us to premiere the show at the Leeds Grand. Knowing all the creatives involved, I am sure it’s going to be a big (fat?) hit there and around the country! I can’t wait.”

Produced by Joshua Andrews and Adam Spiegel, Fat Friends – The Musical will play the Leeds Grand from 7 November until 2 December. The creative also includes orchestrations, arrangement and musical supervision by Simon Lee and design by Bretta Gerecke.

Angela Thomas

www.leedsgrandtheatre.com

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