Thank to Wales Millennium Centre for providing us with review tickets for I Should Be So Lucky The Musical
Kylie’s I Should Be So Lucky, Bananarama’s Love In The First Degree, Mel and Kim’s Respectable, Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, Sonia’s You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You, Jason Donovan’s Too Many Broken Hearts…
It’s basically my 7-inch single collection from the late 1980s when I was 10 years old and obsessed with pop music. I saved my pocket money for trips to Woolworths’ music department, had Smash Hits posters on my wall, made up dances to the aforementioned songs with my friends, and my tape deck was always ready to record my favourites from the Sunday evening top 40 countdown.
It’s the music that defined my tween years (even if that word hadn’t been invented back then), but it’s also the soundtrack for new stage musical I Should Be So Lucky, an energetic and fun tale of love and friendship featuring more than 30 songs written by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman, Stock Aitken Waterman, the pop writing power trio who dominated the charts with more than 100 top 40 hits in the mid to late 1980s and early 1990s, selling more than 150 million records. Incidentally, Waterman himself was in the audience at last night’s press night.
With an age guidance of 12, my theatre companion for the evening was my 13 year old daughter, who made my fellow reviewers laugh by pointing out she was probably the only person watching the musical who wasn’t even alive in the 1980s. That may well be true but she knew a lot of the songs (thanks to my musical education!) and I loved being able to share a slice of my childhood with her.
Fresh from its world premiere in Manchester just a couple of weeks ago, this all-new stage show follows the story of Ella, jilted on her wedding day by childhood sweetheart Nathan, over a misunderstanding. In a bid to mend Ella’s broken heart, her friends and family whisk her off to the luxury Turkish resort where she should have been honeymooning, for what turns out to be a week of chaos, cocktails and a lot of romance.
It’s not a perfect show by any means. The plot is thin at times, even farcical, and some big subjects aren’t quite fully resolved (a subplot near the end involving Ella’s sister, for example). There’s some stereotyping with the characters, especially those in the Turkish resort. And it’s not quite on the same level as that other jukebox wedding-themed musical Mamma Mia.
But… once you realise this is a show not to be taken too seriously, it’s upbeat, energetic, good fun and hard not to enjoy. The kind of light-hearted escapism you need at this time of year.
With a soundtrack that defined a generation, I Should Be So Lucky is heavy on the nostalgia, and it’s clear the audience are loving the music, mouthing the words and needing no encouragement to get up on their feet for the curtain call. The hits keep coming, cleverly woven into the storyline, and a reminder that music has the power to take us back to a time and place and for the memories to come flooding back.
Lucie-Mae Summer is Ella, warm and likeable, and Billy Roberts is Nathan, confused and misguided but a general boy-next-door good guy. Giovanni Spano is charismatic best man Ash, while Kayla Carter is bridesmaid Bonnie who provides one of the show’s musical highlights with her rendition of Sonia’s You’ll Never Stop me From Loving You. The bouncy pop hit is given the big ballad treatment, slowed down and with powerhouse vocals to great effect. Her character is an ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ type; surely this performance will catapult her into leading lady status.
Kylie herself appears throughout the show, sadly not in person, but pre-recorded appearing in Ella’s mirror, a sparkly and glamorous inner monologue, as the broken-hearted nearly-bride tries to figure out who she is and what she wants in life.
The tunnel of hearts surrounding the stage is a great backdrop for the action, changing colour with almost every scene, and beautifully framing the stunning Turkish beach scenes. The costumes again change regularly, bold, bright and often with the characters humorously coordinated, while some of the special effects, such as the hot air balloon and storm, are well-executed.
Overall, this a lively and entertaining show, perfect for anyone who remembers crying their eyes out as Scott and Charlene walked down the aisle to Especially For You, but equally enjoyable for those (like my daughter) who have been subjected to this ‘olden days music’ by their parents and whose only association with Never Gonna Give You Up is trying to ‘Rick Roll’ their friends.
I Should Be So Lucky The Musical is at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 2 December. Tickets are still available, from £16. Age guidance 12+. Book online here.
For more family-friendly theatre in the run-up to Christmas, check out this blog post.