Talking to Kay Mellor is a joy – she is the same in real life as she is on the telly, warm, friendly, upbeat and down-to-earth.
Her latest enthusiasm is the re-incarnation of her TV hit Fat Friends as a musical.
Kay has adapted her story of members of a branch of Super Slimmers led by the lovelorn Lauren for the stage.
She has also written the lyrics with music by Nick Lloyd Webber, the son of Lord Lloyd Webber.
The story is as timely now as when it was on the television in 2000 with Kay’s daughter Gaynor Faye, Alison Steadman, Ruth Jones and James Corden in lead roles.
“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,” said Kay.
“It ran for four series with a Christmas special and although I felt it had run its course on television, I always secretly 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.
“Everybody you meet is on some kind of diet or knows someone on a diet,” said Kay. There is a difference, though, from writing a TV series to a musical. “We wrote a new number – Chocolate – which went down a storm and is staying in.
“That’s what I love about the musical – it is a living being. With TV, once it’s done, it’s done,” she said.
Kay said she has been blessed by her collaborators including arranger Simon Lee.
“Good musicals are not written by one person,” she said.
“The musical is funny and sad with a big story and some meaty and memorable songs.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with Nick who absolutely gets my characters and world,” she said. The respect is mutual. “It’s been such a treat to collaborate with Kay on Fat Friends, he said.
“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.”
The cast is led by Jodi Prenger as Kelly, dreaming of getting into that wedding dress. “When I was casting the show Andrew Lloyd Webber said I had to go out and get Jodi,” said Kay.
He cast her as Nancy in his production of Oliver! after the BBC talent show I’d Do Anything.
“The second she walked into the room, I knew she right. She has star quality and likeability in bucket loads,” said Kay. “She is an ordinary, down-to-earth woman who does not take herself too seriously but has an angelic quality.”
X Factor winner Sam Bailey plays Kelly’s mum Betty and former Coronation Street star Kevin Kennedy plays her dad Fergus, who runs a fish and chip shop. Former Yorkshire and England cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff will play Kevin for the Sheffield date. He has been sharing the role of Kelly’s dim but devoted fiance with Joel Montague. “Freddie lights up every room he walks into. He is great with everybody,” said Kay.