Theatre producer Adam Spiegel is helping to bring Fat Friends: The Musical to Leeds Grand Theatre in November alongside Kay Mellor. JLife’s Evangeline Spachis spoke to the London-born creative about the show.
West End producer Adam Spiegel loves Leeds, and in particular Leeds Grand Theatre: “I think it’s one of the best theatres in the country. It’s a terrific theatre that is run immaculately.” Not bad, from someone who has been producing theatre for over 20 years throughout the UK and in London’s lauded Theatreland.
Luckily for Adam, he will once again be in Leeds for the next couple of months to put the final touches to Fat Friends: The Musical, which debuts at Leeds Grand Theatre on 7th November. Based on the popular TV comedy drama written by Kay Mellor and featuring music from Nick Lloyd Webber, the production recreates the story of a group of hopeful and loveable dieters in North Leeds.
“The decision to start the show in Leeds was principally made by Kay and my co-producer on the show, Joshua Andrews. Because of Kay’s Leeds identity and since the show is set in Headingley, Leeds seemed like the show’s natural birthplace.” Adam explains. After premiering in Leeds, the show will then go on an extensive tour, hitting major theatres across the country.
And when asked about his decision to produce the show, it’s clear that it was a bit of a no-brainer for the Norfolk-based producer: “Making the decision to get involved in Fat Friends was not very difficult at all. It’s simple, I’d like to do anything with Kay Mellor and if you get the chance to work with her you just say ‘yes please!’”
The London born and bred producer also explained that the decision to take on the project fitted well with his instinct for new shows, and how the core themes and message of Fat Friends was a perfect formula for the musical theatre medium: “I was a fan of the TV series and it’s the sort of intimate story that works very well for musicals. It has a great positive message and is very much about a caring community and I think musical theatre works well when it’s about communities coming together.” Indeed, Fat Friends slots right in with Adam’s back catalogue of shows that include Hairspray, Motown The Musical and classics such as The Mousetrap. Most recently, Adam revived Willy Russell’s much loved Shirley Valentine, which starred Jodie Prenger and who will also go on to star in Fat Friends.
Joining Jodie is an impressive ensemble cast, and one name in particular has been grabbing column inches and raising a few eyebrows: cricketing legend Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. But after a few initial workshops with the cast, Adam could reveal: “He’s a lovely chap and he tends to give it everything because that’s just what he’s like. And I certainly can tell you that Kay wouldn’t cast anyone she didn’t know would be good.”
Discussing the themes of the new show, Adam revealed that there was certainly a Jewish connection within the story, beyond Kay’s own association with the faith. Personally, however, Adam has a unique relationship with his heritage and remains close to the state of Israel through his charitable work: “My father was Jewish but my mother wasn’t, so I feel Jewish but I am not practicing. I have significant links with and am intimately involved with Israel and a lot of charities there.”
With over two decades of work under his belt, Adam was candid about the changing nature of the theatre world, but also about whom in the industry inspires him: “You can’t help but look outwards, and you can’t get much better than Cameron Mackintosh. He changed the industry, created some of the most iconic musicals ever and remains a shining example to anyone who wants to produce shows.”
But even Mackintosh has suffered his fair share of flops, and despite having a global resurgence, theatre continues to compete for its audience, and Adam cites the biggest challenge being “persuading people to leave their TVs and come and see shows.”
“There are a million ways of spending your time and there are lots of reasons to not go, but our responsibility as theatre professionals is to make the case, show by show, that people should leave their sofas and go see live theatre.”
“In theatre there are always hits and there are always flops, you just have to make sure that you have more of the first than the second!” joked Adam. With tickets selling well, Fat Friends: The Musical seems destined to be one of Adam’s many hits. Let’s hope the scales tip in his favour!