Like a worthwhile midnight McDonalds, you know what you’re getting with FatBusters: The Musical – and it hits the spot in all the expected places. This light-hearted new British musical doesn’t take itself too seriously and has the opportunity to stand out among the new fringe musicals this year.
Based in FatBusters Birmingham branch, new member Helen (Elizabeth Rowe) joins because she worries her boyfriend isn’t as interested in her as he once was – due to her weight gain over the years they’ve been together.
She’s introduced to a variety of characters at FatBusters, all with different reasons for joining the programme. They are all instantly supportive and friendly. Following these introductions comes the course leader, Fiona (Yvette Robinson) who, as expected, is not that sweet of a character. Her method is harsh as she tries to get the best results in the FatBusters community. Helen focuses her attention on losing pounds, she gains much more in friendship and is able to focus on the issues in her life in a different way.
The show features a lot of light throwaway jokes such as the FatBusters social media app, FatBook and having to use ampersands instead of hashtags (because ampersands are the ‘fat hashtags’). The show is always in jest and is a good laugh, but still, has a great and honest heart.
The musical first came to fruition years ago when writer Josh Coley had the idea of a musical based on weight-loss. Over the years it developed, grew and with the interest and help of ANO Productions, started to become a reality. The book is one of the musical’s strongest assets and that’s down to Coley’s relatable, blunt and tongue-in-cheek humour. Originally from Birmingham himself, Coley captures each character with great Brummie ticks, gags, and one-liners that can sometimes border on pantomime but there is nothing surreal about this loveable, well-created bunch. It’s great choice of setting. The script implies the show will rely on visual comedy too such as costumes and set, and we were limited in this early concert viewing to view FatBusters in all its potential and glory.
As the story progresses, so does the background of our supporting characters. The songs are plentiful but, whilst noting that this is still considered a musical ‘in-the-works’, they aren’t as consistently strong as the script. The group numbers shine through and the cast work best when all together.
Kate Playdon’s single shouty mother, Sue, is a comedic standout as well as Christina Meehan’s Pat, who brings laughter to every line. Another worthwhile mention is Robinson’s portrayal of the course leader – you could easily fall into the trap of those weight-loss leader characters and recreate something that has been done before. Robinson’s Fiona is original and fun to watch.
With further development to come, the creatives should aim to make the rest of the show as strong and toned as its first thirty minutes. FatBusters is good enough and original enough to not rely on any cliche storylines or scenes (it definitely doesn’t with the characters) – it has an opportunity to turn modern musical theatre on its head in a great way.
This musical is only going to expand when it hits the stage fully at ‘St. Giles in the Field Church’, at the end of May this year. It’s something I very much look forward to.
Review by Elliott Jordan
Have you ever looked at a cheese cake and put on half a stone? Do you ever wonder why diets can only ever start on Mondays? Have you ever been described as: bubbly, bonny, voluptuous or well?
Follow the year in the life of Helen who, at a New Years eve party, decides “enough is enough” and goes on a journey learning how to love herself again. Where better to find love and friendship then at the local ‘Fatbusters’ club of course! With her new Fat-busting friends by her side nothing can stop her! Whether it be her not so supportive boyfriend, the dreaded weigh in every Monday or the group leader Fiona’s crazy outbursts, Helen is proof you cannot get a good girl down. Will she follow through with her resolutions? You’ll have to come and see, but one thing is for sure: You shall walk away with a warm heart, sore cheeks and a few new tunes to hum as you walk to your fridge. A real guilty treat!
Rebecca Westberry – Director
Cameron Hall -Choreographer
Writer/co Director-Joshua Coley
Musical Director Jordan Clarke