Musical takes on childhood fat-shaming and bullying in a comic and yet eerily surreal way.
Fatty Fatty No Friends is the first FringeNYC musical we are reviewing here on CHARGED.fm, and it does exactly what musicals are great at: putting a new spin on an everyday situation by taking it out of the world of realism. For this show, the issue is bullying of overweight children, and an eerie, intricate musical score and polished production make this fantastical story--involving extreme violence and even cannibalism--feel shockingly real.
Performing Cruelty with Grace
Tommy is the only fat kid he knows, and he has never had a friend. On a day like any other, he wakes up, gets dressed, goes to school and encounters a series of ever more cruel torments just for trying to live his life the way he is. The musical is almost entirely sung or spoken to the rhythm of the backing orchestra, so each of these simple activities acquires a new significance as Tommy contemplates the horror of never having clothes that fit or hearing other children claim to be his friends and then mock him behind his back.
The star of this show is really the music, from the haunting "Fatty Fatty No Friends" recurring melody to the intricate harmonies performed by the chorus. Of course, actor Jason Sofge's extraordinary voice brings the entire show to a new level, while his heartbreaking performance of the sensitive child torn to shreds by the attacks of the other children instantly creates sympathy amongst the audience. Other star performers include Mallory Campbell as Tommy's would-be friend Emily and Mia Moretti Thomas as head bully Sally, but this is really a show about the power of the chorus, which is universally strong.
The other highlight of Fatty Fatty No Friends is the masterful costume and make-up design by Ashley Soliman and Kate Marley, respectively. From the looming stilt-walker inner demons to the cast of children all color-coded into factions with cartoonish hats and hair bows, depicting stereotypes come to life, these outfits add an extra dimension of surreality to the piece. The smears of facepaint and drawn-on pink cheeks and freckles add to that cartoon quality, while even the orchestra are dressed in the demonic black and white of Tommy's inescapable world.
The actual story of the play does not quite live up to its extraordinary performance, but the cast do their best with a difficult, spooky and yet also comic idea. The turn to violence and revenge is a little anti-climactic, though again the costume solution to depicting the kids' gruesome injuries is very well done. Meanwhile, the ending is a bit too neat and preachy for a play that involves cannibalism, though I do appreciate the expansion of Tommy's world to include other bullied children.
Fatty Fatty No Friends is a musical that forces you to take childhood bullying seriously, and it does so with both humor and grace. While the revenge fantasy is not always successful in remaining in the world of fantasy, the fantastic music and costuming more than makes this show worth it. Come see this musical, and prepare to look at schoolyard bullying (and sugar cookie people) in a very different way.
Fatty Fatty No Friends plays as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Flamboyan Theater at the Clemente. Remaining performances are on August 19th at 11pm, the 20th at 7:30pm, the 21st at 7:15pm and the 23rd at 3pm.
This article was previously published on CHARGED.fm.