AS a member of Atomic Kitten for 19 years, Natasha Hamilton is used to being adored by screaming fans.
But she says she loves being the bad guy in the musical version of TV favourite Fat Friends – so much so that she’s decided to extend her stay as the evil Julia Fleshman.
She is part of an all-star cast that includes Jodie Prenger, Elaine C. Smith and ex-Corrie favourite Kevin “Curly Watts” Kennedy, and it is written and directed by BAFTA winner Kay Mellor, who also wrote the television version.
“When I got the script I thought, ‘She can be a bit mean’, but Kay said to embrace it and reminded me the character wasn’t me,” Natasha said.
“She’s a bit catty and has some bite, as well as being daft. It’s my first baddie role.
“Initially I had taken on a shorter tour, but I’ve fallen in love with the show so I didn’t want to leave it. I switched my schedule around so I could do more dates.”
That means 35-year-old Natasha will appear as Julia in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, having previously not been part of the advertised Glasgow line-up.
Running across four series from 2000-05 on ITV, the original Fat Friends starred Ruth Jones, James Corden, Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman as well as Gaynor Faye, Ruth Jones, Lisa Riley and Janet Dibley.
“I remembered the TV show,” continued Natasha.
“I had dipped in and out. I asked Kay if I should watch it all before the tour started and she said no, because she wanted to see what I would bring to it.
“I’m definitely going to binge watch it after this is over.”
Fat Friends The Musical centres on the upcoming wedding of Kelly (Jodie Prenger) and Kevin.
Kelly has bought a dress two sizes too small and is determined to get into it.
Her mum, Betty, (Elaine C Smith) has recently lost five stone and is up for slimmer of the year, a competition being covered by the BBC.
When Kelly comes along to support her mum, things start to go wrong with catastrophic results.
“It’s been so much fun,” Natasha, from Liverpool, said.
“Kay’s a brilliant writer and there is lots of laughter from the audience every night.
“I’m working with a lot of TV people on this and their knowledge is brilliant.
“As a relatively new actress, it’s great to see how other people do it.”
Natasha scored huge hits with Atomic Kitten such as No.1, Whole Again.
Although the group has been on a number of hiatuses over the years and Natasha was recently involved in a public spat with bandmate Kerry Katona, she says she’ll continue singing with the band.
“I’ll still keep my hand in doing Atomic Kitten gigs, but I’m so busy right now.
“I’ve just taken on a new musical, Closets. Fat Friends led to this offer, so I’m starting to get a little bit of traction in my acting.
“This is a challenge but as much as I love being part of Atomic Kitten, I’ve been doing it since I was 16 and there isn’t the same challenge as there is with this.”
Another challenge is being away from her children. She has four, aged between three and 16.
“It’s difficult,” she admitted. “I’m not the only person on the tour in this situation though, as we have several mums and dads.
“We do miss them terribly, but it makes the time we do spend with them more precious.
“Sometimes they come with me and I also commute when I can, and then there’s all the technology that allows us to keep in touch.
“At the end of the day, bills need to be paid and food put on the table.
“Hopefully I’m showing the kids that when a job comes along, you take it.
“I want to instil the same good work ethic in them that my parents did with me.”
And when work is as much fun as Fat Friends, it’s hard to complain.
Fat Friends; Edinburgh Playhouse, Apr 19-21; King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Apr 30-May 5; His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, May 21-26
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