I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical – Review – Hull New Theatre
By Rachel Howard, February 2024
Stock Aitken and Waterman… what do those names mean to you? If you’re under 35, perhaps very little. If you were more ‘rock chick’ than ‘pop princess’, they may well make you cringe a bit. But for me, those names never fail to bring a big smile to my face. I was born in 1980, so by the time the songwriter/producer extraordinaires were hitting the big time, I was just starting to be interested in music, and cheesy pop was where it was at!
Kylie Minogue was my idol, Jason Donovan one of my first crushes, and Bananarama my style icons. Along with a plethora of household names (Rick Astley, Sinitta, Sonia and Mel and Kim), Stock Aitken and Waterman (SAW) created the sound of 80s and 90s pop, and subsequently the theme tune to my childhood.
So it is with great excitement that I take my seat for the opening night of I Should Be So Lucky, the new musical set to SAW’s back catalogue, and titled in tribute to that much-loved Kylie track, which topped the charts for five weeks back in 1988 (and played on repeat in my bedroom for longer than that!). The show was created by Debbie Isitt, best known for writing and directing the hugely successful film franchise Nativity!, and the choreography has been produced by none other than Strictly Come Dancing’s resident Creative Director, Jason Gilkison, so I know I’m in for a treat.
Set against a stunning stage backdrop of neon love hearts, the story of I Should Be So Lucky starts to play out. Enter centre stage our two main characters, lovebirds Ella (Lucie-Mae Sumner) and Nathan (Billy Roberts). Everything looks rosy as they make their way to the alter, ready to marry and live happily ever after. But that would be too easy wouldn’t it…
For reasons that become clear later on, Nathan has a last minute panic, and jilts his bride to be. As he makes a run for it, with best man Ash (Giovanni Spanó) chasing after him, broken-hearted Ella makes the decision to leave the country and go on her luxury honeymoon to Turkey with her friends and family in tow. Enter stage left the wonderful supporting cast of Ella’s Mum (Melissa Jacques), Nan (Jemma Churchill), sister Britney (Emma Crossley) and best friends Bonnie (Kayla Carter) and Michael (Scott Page).
As they land in Dalaman, it is clear to see the chaos that is about to ensue for our characters, and the fun that is about to kick off for us, the audience. This is a powerhouse cast if ever there was one. Everyone brings star quality to the stage in bucketloads, but it’s the humour that makes this a winner for me. Ella’s larger-than-life gay best friend, Michael, is hilarious – the physical comedy matching the verbal. Outrageous, naughty, frivolous – he’s everything you want from the character – and more. On the more sensitive side, we have Bonnie, Ella’s slightly more understated friend who is nursing an unrequited love of her own. Without giving the game away, the honeymoon turns into a Benny Hill-esque farce of fantastical events – Ella’s heart is reawakened by Nadeem (a hotel employee), Michael has more than just his stiff neck eased during a Turkish massage, Nan gets a vajazzle, the whole crew get tattoos, and to top it all off, Nathan and Ash decide to fly out and try and win the bride back.
If you want a deep and meaningful storyline, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is not the show for engaging your brain. But if you want top-quality performances from a supremely talented cast, you’ve come to the right place. It feels wrong to single out any one performer from this fantastic cast, but as well as our main characters, I must mention Jamie Chapman, who plays Spencer the hotel manager. His fabulously camp portrayal is reminiscent of Mr Humphries from Are You Being Served?, and alongside Michael, they rightly receive the biggest laughs of the night.
There is one other performance that needs a special mention – and that is Queen Kylie herself. Not in person, unfortunately, but in hologram form, appearing in a mirror as a guardian angel-type character, continually guiding Ella and encouraging her to believe in herself… “remember, you’re strong, beautiful, fabulous”. The hologram was particularly effective, and was a pretty good substitute for the real thing (also strong, beautiful and fabulous, of course!).
But let’s face it, as wonderful as the cast are, there is really only one standout winner in this show, and it’s the music. The SAW back catalogue is huge, and I don’t envy the job of whittling it down for a two hour show, but whittle they did and we are left with 26 of the trio’s biggest hits. ‘Too Many Broken Hearts’ (Jason Donovan), ‘Respectable’ (Mel and Kim), ‘Step Back In Time’ (Kylie), ‘Venus’ (Bananarama), ‘You Spin Me Round’ (Dead or Alive) and ‘Toy Boy’ (Sinitta) are the big crowdpleasers, and Bonnie’s emotional rendition of ‘You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You’ brings a hush over an otherwise excitable crowd.
“Fantastic night out”
This show is the epitome of fun – at one point there are beach balls being thrown into the crowd, the front row are served a portion of vol-au-vents they aren’t expecting, and glitter cannons explode into the stalls just to inject a little extra exhilaration. Not that it’s needed. By the time we get to the finale, we’re all on our feet, dancing and clapping away to a medley of classics.
It would be wrong to spoil the outcome of Ella and Nathan’s will they/won’t they love story. ‘It’s Never Too Late’ to buy a ticket and see it for yourselves!
In the words of show creator Debbie Isitt, “Ultimately I want audiences to have a great night out at the theatre, fall in the love with the characters, feel empowered by the story, and of course go away singing these incredible uplifting songs”. Well Debbie, ‘I Heard a Rumour’ that the crowd in Hull had a fantastic night out, and ‘Especially for You’, I downloaded SAW’s greatest hits as soon as I got home – so job well done!
‘I Should Be So Lucky: The Musical’ is at Hull New Theatre until 24th February