REVIEW: Fat Friends The Musical at Sheffield Lyceum

By Adele Forrest | 16/02/2018

REVIEW: Fat Friends The Musical at Sheffield Lyceum
Jodie Prenger and Andrew Flintoff

THERE are some big names in Kay Mellor's comedy drama about a Leeds slimming club - but there's one who packs the biggest punch.

Jodie Prenger as bride-to-be Kelly, who takes on the challenge of dropping several dress sizes before her big day, is the standout star.

Her West End background is evident as she breezes through the high notes with ease and commands the stage.

She's cheeky, carefree and confident in her body size, unlike her mum Betty, played by X Factor winner Sam Bailey.

It feels a bit of a stretch to cast Bailey as Prenger's mum, seeing as there is only two years age difference between them in reality.

I was hoping they'd been cast together because of their knockout vocal abilities, but sadly, their big duet falls a little flat as it seems Bailey's voice was struggling on Monday's opening night, which I can only assume was down to illness.

That said, their dream sequence number about chocolate, in which three scantily-clad men dance around them pointing large chocolate bars in some very suggestive ways, is spot on.

But I was very pleasantly surprised at former prison officer Bailey's acting capabilities, she even nails the northern accent, something I've seen many fail at at the Lyceum (shout out to Full Monty's Gary Lucy).

Mellor has also taken another risk in casting ex-England cricketer Andrew Freddie Flintoff as Kelly's fiance, Kevin.

And does it pay off? Of course it does!

Flintoff's charm knows no bounds and when he first strolls onto the stage in a tight white vest and overalls there was a collective swoon from the crowd.

His singing still needs some work, but I suppose his inexperience gives it an everyman feel and fits well with his role as nice-but-dim Kevin. 

Regular readers might have noticed that Rotherham lad Jonnie Halliwell is also starring in the show as zumba instructor/vicar, Paul (we may have mentioned it once or twice).

Halliwell gives the slimming club and the production an injection of energy with his moonwalking, bum-wiggling zumba moves.

He also gets to shine alongside Emmerdale star Natalie Anderson, who plays Jewish slimming club manager Lauren, in a romantic sub-plot that has a hint of Romeo and Juliet about it.

The pair's cute chemistry is adorable and their nervous exchanges and accidental innuendoes are a highlight.

The couple also have the best supporting vocals in the ensemble and it would have been great to hear more.

Fat Friends may have started life 15 years ago on TV, but the characters and narrative are still so familiar today.

The pressure from social media to have the perfect body is everywhere, which Kelly falls victim to, but as the uplifting closing number says, we need to love who we are first.

The show is at the Lyceum until Saturday, for more information visit