I Should Be So Lucky is so derivative of a host of other musical, stage shows and television series that it is difficult to know where to start. Mamma Mia, Muriel’s Wedding, Benidorm, and Shirley Valentine to name just some. In fact, the similarity to Shirley Valentine was so blatant they name checked Willy Russell’s play. If it had been a university assignment citation question marks would have flashed every few minutes.
The second problem and even greater one is that many of the Dolly Mixture hit songs that came from Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman (who was there chatting to journos about more projects) just don’t cut it when sung by others. The show reinforced that the magic of some of those songs was the performers, whether Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley or even Jason Donovan. No disrespect but the songs from Bananarama were just funny and again don’t really merit cover versions. For me the jollity of the girls made them bearable.
Lucie-Mae Sumner, Billy Roberts and Matthew Croke
Lucie-Mae Sumner and Matthew Croke
This was made worse by far too many appearances of Kylie, like some Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, yes all been done before too. Why far too many? Because they kept reminding us that one performance of a song by Kylie (or Rick Astley for that matter) would have been better than the whole evening put together. I hope she got paid a lot for this, and also the plugs for Kylie wine were also probably welcome to the Minogue financial empire.
The show by Debbie Isitt staggers and wanders around the story of Ella (Lucie-Mae Sumner), a bride left at the altar because of a misunderstanding, and a motley crew of friends and family, to use that other old trope – oh, we will come with you on the honeymoon, to a Turkish resort. Cue enough racial and cultural stereotyping to make your toes curl, the resort team make the staff of Benidorm seem enlightened. We have camp, desperate, sex-mad men along with one of Ella’s friends whose pronouns I wouldn’t want to guess but in the end just wanted a man. The presumably heterosexual men were just similar caricatures, randy hotel staff, feckless local and others who seemed to just make up the numbers. The women were all desperate too for men from granny to the seemingly dimwit sister of the groom. When hubby came to find his wife (yes, Shirley Valentine) the awful thing wasn’t that despite some vague wittering in the denouement she wasn’t trying to find herself but just wanted , well, you can see for yourself. We also had to have the rival bitch school friend at the resort, and Ella pretending to have a hunky husband, yes, Muriel’s Wedding.
There was little character development and the story lines so farcical it was quite fun to have panto so early in Cardiff. We even had the panto-esque put downs of Barry and Newport – yawn. If it had accepted it was all nonsense with revolting carry on humour it would have been far better. Sadly we didn’t have the usual panto cute dancers but, hey this is 2023, I think.
Yes, the casting has plenty of diversity with ages, sizes, races etc. As there was not much real need for more than light acting and not a lot of singing beyond the pop jollies it was hard to tell how good they are, although Kayley Carter as bridesmaid Bonnie has a lovely vocal range and pulled off the best performance of the night with her Act One solo. Some of the other women had some impressive singing when turning pop into ballads in the second half. There were some perfectly nice musical theatre voices and a few of the team could do some acrobatics. I suppose some of the men looked attractive enough for the roles if you accept even more stereotyping.
Jason Gilkison’s choreography is fine but never sensational, and the costumes and set are bright and amusing enough, although again with plenty of obvious humour tropes.
Overall, I Should Be So Lucky is a perfectly okay way of passing a few hours and hearing old songs. The cast had a job getting the audience going but, of course, they eventually got to their feet as it always does at a WMC musical.
I left thanking my lucky stars I was a lad in the 1980s when these songs were sung by the original stars. Although really only the Kylie and Astley ones have gained cult status because of the original performers. Kylie in particular has kept the songs alive by including them in her shows that still sell well because of her later genuinely excellent music. Her status and contemporary strong musical success has retrospectively benefited the earlier work. Abba, in contrast, has seen its compositions gain in critical appreciation.
Ps Is gay marriage legal in Turkey? News to me. Our lovely same sex couple (a Turkish masseur and one of Ella’s friends hoping for a try of his Indian Head – yes, really, this is the level of the humour) need to tread carefully with their planned beach resort honeymoon as the state will be on them like a ton of bricks. No doubt in the daft pop musical world circa 1980s all will be fine. Hey, but they should be so lucky.
Wales Millennium Centre until December 2.
Pictures Marc Brenner.