I Should Be So Lucky, the musical currently premiering at Manchester Opera House, is a joyous journey through the back catalogue of the Hit Factory, topped by the thinnest of plots.
Stock, Aiken and Waterman wrote and produced some of the 1980s’ best loved and most successful pop music, with Kylie, Jason Donovan and Bananarama amongst the acts who shot to the top of the charts with the trio’s music.
The three were present at the jukebox musical’s press night, and the audience excitement was palpable when Pete Waterman mingled amongst the audience before the show’s start.
The show begins with an excited bride-to-be preparing for her wedding with a rendition of Kyle Minogue’s 1987 hit ‘I Should Be So Lucky’. Within a minute or two I sported the widest grin, as the joyful and catchy tune played.
When the groom-to-be began singing, however, the smile faded. He sang with an earnestness and sadness the song does not merit. Cynicism began to set in — surely an audience cannot be expected to appreciate non-existent depth in these harmless pop tunes.
Quickly, however, I realised the musical has been created with tongue firmly in cheek. This is the saving grace of the production.
The plot of the musical is extremely thin and superfluous. A flimsy misunderstanding separates the couple-to-be, and jilted bride Ella travels to Turkey with a group of family and friends to enjoy the honeymoon she was supposed to have with fiancé Nathan.
A mirror lowers from the heavens repeatedly during the show, on which Kylie Minogue appears to give Ella advice. Kylie’s appearances reminded me how bad the acting was in Neighbours, but her charm and charisma still shine through her pre-recorded cameos. But Kylie imploring Ella to release her inner diva did not sit quite right – Kylie is too kind and sweet to be a diva.
The jokes are cheap and obvious throughout – but they do their job. Loud and hearty chuckles greeted jokes about getting ‘Indian Head’ from a masseuse, and Turkish waiters with Manuel-esque accents.
If anything, the juvenile humour just added to the musical’s charm. I kept drawing comparisons with pantomime, and with Nativity! director Debbie Isitt having written and directed the production, this is perhaps not surprising.
The cast certainly delivered every cheap pun with panache and passion. Some of the biggest laughs were achieved by Scott Paige, who played Ella’s camp maid-of-honour, and by Giovanni Spano, who looks like he could have been a 1980s heartthrob.
The show finishes with a rousing and energetic medley, and at this point the audience is at last called to stand up and sing along. A final demonstration of the production’s superb singing and choreography, it proved that the Hit Factory’s tunes are the stars of the show.
One feels the plot could have been completely discarded with. The joy of the production comes from the music, with a little help from some Carry On style humour.
Nonetheless, by the end of the show my cheekbones ached through smiling so much. Thin and light as the show may be, I can’t wait to see it again.
I Should Be So Lucky is playing at Manchester Opera House until 25 November and then touring. Tickets are available here.
Featured image credit: Marc Brenner