His Majesty's Theatre
Saturday 26 May 2018
This is reviewing the production shown in Aberdeen, Scotland - cast members may change based on your local theatres.
Fat Friends The Musical is a wonderful revival of the original series which span 25 episodes in the early 2000's.
The programme's creator has returned to Fat Friends and penned a fantastic script with many twists for the audience in the auditorium to enjoy and really get their money's worth and I definitely got my money's worth from this particular production.
The way Kay Mellor has written this story is perfect. She has galvanised so much research and used her extensive knowledge from the hit ITV Network series into the struggles people go through each and every day regarding their weight problems.
The story is very cleverly written out from beginning to end.
The beginning we see a young woman - recently engaged - eyeing up her dream wedding dress and heartbreakingly cannot fit in it. During the play we see her desperately struggling to lose the weight as she's cruelly egged on by a career driven Julia Fleshman and goes to great lengths to reduce her already beautiful size to get into the wedding dress she desires. Not to give too much away, the ending is, as I mentioned above, perfect.
Ms. Mellor has carefully set out this story to make everyone watching be aware that being big is sexy, being big is nothing to be ashamed about and people should embrace who they are as each and every single person in the world comes in all shapes and sizes. This story reflects this and should inspire women and men into believing in themselves a whole lot more.
A cast with four strong female leads, led by; Jodie Prenger, Natalie Anderson, Natasha Hamilton and Elaine C. Smith.
Kelly Stevenson portrayed by Jodie Prenger:
Jodie Prenger; who shot to fame being victorious in a BBC talent show - I'd Do Anything - perlustrating for a new performer to portray Nancy in an Andrew Lloyd Webber production, Oliver!, in London's West End has made the role of Kelly Stevenson her own, so much so that it took me approximately an hour to figure out that it was indeed Jodie Prenger on the stage 10 feet in front of me. I had no idea it was her. Yes, her name was written in huge lettering on the huge billboards outside His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen's Rosemount. Yes, her name was blatantly written on the production's programme brochure. Yes, no-one mentioned before the play began that the role of Kelly Stevenson would be portrayed by anyone else. I honestly did not realise Kelly was Jodie until we saw a video of her on the JumboTron integrated on the set and I was sitting there saying; "wait, that blonde girl on the screen looks like Jodie Prenger" - then it dawned on me like a light bulb switching on making the "DING" sound effect on top of my head like we see in cartoons.
Jodie played out Kelly's struggle with weight-loss trying to fit in to a dream wedding dress fantastically. With all due respect to Jodie; she truly is an inspiration to women - and some men - by saying being big is sexy too and there's absolutely no shame in being big or as Kelly endearingly said in the musical; "fat and fabulous". Not only is Jodie a renowned singer, she has amazing ability to be an actor with the hint of comedy in there too. She's multi-talented.
Lauren portrayed by Natalie Anderson:
Natalie Anderson; who is argubly best known for playing Alicia Metcalfe in Emmerdale or Stella Davenport in The Royal, both for ITV.
Natalie Anderson's voice is mind-blowing. We heard her sing on ITV's Your Face Sounds Familiar back in 2013 when she sang as various music artists. To hear her sing live gives you goosebumps.
Natalie was fantastic as Lauren - the Zumba Instructor and runs Super Slimmers: Headingley Branch. A thirty-something virgin with a partiality for Jewish men. Natalie made the character look fun to be around, a good friend to many - enemy to none. Lauren, who also dreams of a princess fairy tale wedding, is the person us 'big' people secretly hate. She's stereotypically 'perfect' in every way but still thinks her bum looks too big and needs to lose that all important 1 stone. From what we've seen from interviews and her twitter account, Natalie has an infectious sense of humour. She effortlessly transferred this in portraying Lauren beautifully.
Betty portrayed by Elaine C. Smith:
Elaine C. Smith; who is best known for her appearances in Rab C. Nesbitt as Mary "Mary Doll" Nesbitt and her STV programme, Burdz Eye View.
Baillieston, Glasgow born and bred, Elaine provided a welcomed Scottish accent in the play which made us in Aberdeen feel right at home. Elaine has starred in countless productions at His Majesty's Theatre including Calendar Girls and a very impressive extensive amount of Christmas Pantomimes where she performed alongside River City's Jordan Young. So it's safe to say Elaine is both well-loved and equally as respected especially in the north of Britain.
The chemistry Elaine had on-stage with her co-stars is very special. She brought out the best in her fellow performers; especially her acting family members of Kevin Kennedy, Jodie Prenger and Rachael Wooding.
Elaine was great as Betty, and performed her story in the musical effortlessly. You know when you're going to watch a play and Elaine C. Smith is in it you're in safe hands for a fun night. Elaine has a brilliant way of tuning into her audience and drawing us in to the role she's portraying. Betty was no different.
Natasha Hamilton as Julia Fleshman:
Natasha Hamilton is a globally recognised singer both as part of Atomic Kitten and as a solo artist who has sold in excess of 20 million records worldwide.
Natasha was the biggest surprise of the show as far as her acting ability goes. I was aware she had starred in Christmas Pantomimes but being honest, she's known for being a singer who Lionel Richie said was "blown away by her talent". Being in Aberdeen, we don't always get the full west end cast appearing in His Majesty's Theatre therefore this was the first time I was lucky to witness first-hand Natasha's dramatical prowess and mark my words she is a very talented actor. I was mesmerised with her abilities. Natasha has done many charitable work over the years so - like everyone else in Fat Friends: The Musical - we know she has a kind heart and has the willingness to help people. Julia Fleshman only looks out for number 1 and to play a selfish, up-herself, arrogant and ruthless person must have brought Natasha completely out of her comfort zone. Don't be surprised if you see her in gripping television dramas in the future because she definitely has a future in the drama world as a serious actor.
Kevin Kennedy is another huge surprise in this production. He can sing beautifully. One amazing actor in his own right too. It was an honour to be in the same room as a British Soap Opera legend and a "sex symbol".
The other cast members are equally as fantastic; Rachael Wooding, Chloe Hart, Joel Montague, Jonathan Halliwell, Neil Hurst and Chlöe Hart were also fantastic and complimented the protagonists beautifully and provided a wonderful support not only to the main characters but also each other.
This production isn't for all members of the family as there are a lot of sexual innuendos and suggestive language but don't let that put you off, Fat Friends: The Musical is both inspirational and hilarious. And this is probably the most star-studded production I've ever seen at His Majesty's Theatre.
The only bad thing about the tour is the various cast changes per geographical location. If the production is touring the entire United Kingdom then everywhere should be shown the courtesy of having the same cast every other theatre had because different locations in Britain will have seen different versions of the production. It's unfair that other parts of Britain gets to see a different production with different cast members than we get to enjoy in Scotland. We pay the same money as everywhere else, we shouldn't be treated differently.
Nick Lloyd Webber - from the legendary musical family - has the perfect score for this musical.
The multi-talented cast drew in a standing ovation at the curtain call.
In short; Fat Friends: The Musical is a bloody good fun day out filled with lots of giggles that's off the scale.
To find out if Fat Friends: The Musical is coming to your local theatre, please visit FatFriendsTheMusical.com.
If you liked this review make sure you give me a follow on Twitter: @AndyGibsonTV.
Images copyright: Jass Productions / Spiegel Productions / Rollem Production Company
His Majesty's Theatre
Saturday 23 September 2017
Mamma Mia The Musical has arrived at Aberdeen's His Majesty's Theatre for the next leg of their UK tour and they did not hold back.
With a fantastic ensemble of cast, the production was filled with high energy and - of course - music from one of the most popular music groups in history, I'm talking about ᗅᗺᗷᗅ®.
With many laughs along the way, the UK tour of Mamma Mia told the story of a young girl, Sophie Sheridan, wanting to discover who she is by finding her birth-father - only problem; there's THREE potential men who it could be and with no Jeremy Kyle DNA test in the Greek isles, there was only one thing to do and that was to invite all three to her wedding.
Lucy May Barker who played Sophie and Helen Hobson who portrayed her mother, Donna, both led the incredibly talented cast over TWO HOURS of high octane action and feel-good theatre.
Emma Clifford & Gillian Hardle who played Tanya & Rosie respectively were hilarious, they worked so well together. As were Fia Houston-Hamilton (Ali) & Blaise Colangelo (Lisa). Both pairs of performers had amazing chemistry on stage.
Not forgetting the boys. Jamie Hogarth (Harry Bright), Christopher Hollis (Bill Austin) & Jon Boydon (Sam Charmichael) and of course Phillip Ryan (Sky), all performed beautifully in the production as well.
The Tanya/Pepper (played by Louis Stockil) scenes are what giggles are all about.
If you want to be thoroughly entertained, go and see this production.
There was only one problem with the show, I waited until after midnight and they didn't Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie! a man which was a bit disappointing. - I joke.
To Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus of ᗅᗺᗷᗅ® and to Mamma Mia The Musical's producer, Judy Craymer, and her team of superbly talented production staff - thank you for the music and giving it to me.
Images copyright: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg