By Tamika McCrory
X FACTOR winner Sam Bailey has hailed scriptwriter Kay Mellor a national treasure as Fat Friends the Musical ends its successful run in Leeds.
The 2013 X Factor winner is starring in her first lead role as Betty Simpson in the stage version of the hit TV series.
Sam said: “Kay Mellor is a national treasure, she’s incredible. She’s very passionate, she’s lived and breathed Fat Friends for however long.
“She is so clever and her vision is just incredible. When working with her, she’s just so supportive, if you have an idea she is always open to suggestions, it’s just a pleasure to work with her.”
Kay Mellor said: “Leeds is my hometown and where the original TV series of Fat Friends was set, so I’m extremely proud that the world premiere of Fat Friends the Musical could be right here in our city at Leeds Grand Theatre.
“I’m thrilled by the audience reaction in Leeds. It’s the most incredible experience to see people in the audience smiling and laughing and everyone is up on their feet for the finale of every show!”
The show has an all-star cast, including West End favourite and winner of the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, Jodie Prenger, and Emmerdale’s Natalie Anderson and, making his stage debut, former England cricketer Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff.
The show opened in Leeds on November 7 and the final Leeds performance will take place tomorrow (December 2).
Sam said her favourite moment from the Leeds’ run of Fat Friends was the press night.
“That was the best night for me, because the person that was in the audience was Alison Steadman, who played the original Betty.
“She came up to me afterwards and said it was fantastic, so that was amazing,” she said.
Student Antonia Fearon, 19, is a musical theatre fan and was thrilled to finally see the musical in leeds.
She said: “Fat Friends was amazing, Sam Bailey was great, her voice is outstanding and to have such a fantastic musical be based in Headingley was even better.
“Having it based in my home town made it feel so much more personal. I was particularly impressed with Freddie Flintoff, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard that a cricket star was going to be in a musical, but he was fantastic.”