Cheesy gags, cheesy songs
This light-hearted musical is full of crowd-pleasing favourites from Stock, Aitken and Waterman's extensive catalogue of hits from the 80s. You'll know most of the songs and an enthusiastic cast gives them new meaning in this jukebox musical about a jilted bride (Ella, played by Lucie-Mae Sumner) on honeymoon without her groom. Or is she?
The eternal princess of pop, Kylie Minogue, appears in virtual form, cheering Ella on as her family and friends join her in Lovers Paradise (Turkey), belting out the hits as they go.
No stranger to crafting hits for the stage and screen, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning writer and director Debbie Isitt is bringing the iconic songbook of Stock Aitken Waterman to life in the new musical, I Should Be So Lucky, which comes to New Theatre Oxford from 5th to 10th of February.
Best known for her work on the hugely successful movie musical franchise Nativity, we caught up with Debbie to chat about her brand-new production, the generation-defining soundtrack and working with the legendary Kylie Minogue!
What was the inspiration behind the musical?
The songs! Stock Aitken Waterman songs were the soundtrack to my youth and being asked to create a musical featuring all the hits was a very exciting proposition. The songs are about love and that was my starting point for the story and the show! The songs spoke to me - the lyrics and the melodies - I wanted to create a show about love in all its forms - romantic love, thwarted love, love of family, love of self - to create an experience that is emotional and fun and feel good, just like their music makes me feel.
Without major spoilers, can you tell us the story of I Should Be So Lucky?
The story starts with a wedding that goes wrong - I guess that is a spoiler (sorry!). But the bride (Ella’s) family and her two best friends are not prepared to let her disappear in a puddle of grief and insecurity, so they accompany her on her honeymoon to Turkey to try and help her heal her broken heart. However, on the honeymoon they each have a transformative experience that changes their loves and lives forever. Meanwhile, Ella wrestles with a new love (the local tour guide) just as her old love turns up to try and win her back. With the help of her inner confidence (Kylie!) she begins to piece her life and broken heart back together and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
The production features endless hits from the Stock Aitken Waterman catalogue, such as Never Gonna Give You Up, Especially For You, and the titular I Should Be So Lucky. Why do you think these tracks make the perfect soundtrack for a musical?
Because they are absolute bangers! As soon as they start up you can’t help but feel engaged with the brilliant hooks and catchy choruses. But they also take (some of) us back to times when we were young and having fun - and the songs are stories too - stories that we can all relate to - about unrequited love, yearning, and heart felt human emotions. Lots of people know and love the songs but younger audiences are discovering some of them for the first time and it is so fantastic to watch that - everyone - young or old - are up and dancing at the end.
Do you have a favourite song used within the show?
I love so many of the songs used in the show but a lesser-known song, “If You Were With Me Now” is a stand out moment as the song is so beautiful and has such a lush arrangement by George Dyer our music supervisor, matched only by Jason Gilkison’s dream like choreography, that it really transports me to another world. I also love the massive Sonia hit, “Never Stop Me From Loving You” as our amazing Kayla Carter gives a dazzling performance of this beautiful song. And I adore the Kylie mega hit, “Better The Devil You Know” for the sheer euphoria it creates on stage and in the audience! But I genuinely love them all! In fact I can’t not mention, “Respectable” - it’s a brilliant moment in the show - and the audience absolutely love this song! And of course, the iconic, “Never Gonna Give You Up” which have the audience on its feet every single show!
Iconic hitmaker Kylie Minogue scored her first UK number one with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, and she’s also got a starring role in the musical of the same name. What has it been like to work with her?
Kylie was a real pleasure to work with on the musical. Our first meeting was via zoom - Kylie was in Melbourne and I was in London still casting the show. Kylie was so enthusiastic about the musical having watched the workshop where all the ideas were developed. Of course, she already had a great relationship with Stock Aitken and Waterman but now it was time to create a story especially for her within the show. So, a few weeks later she was in London and I presented her with her character and storyline and script and we worked together to hone down the scenes. The concept was Kylie being bride Ella’s reflection in the mirror - playing her inner diva - her inner confidence if you like. I wanted Kylie to play a version of herself but also to be properly integrated into the story. Kylie later came into rehearsal and worked with the cast (which we were all very excited about) and then we were ready to film her sequences. Each sequence had to be filmed in single takes with no edits and had to be timed to perfection to allow interaction and dialogue with the brilliant Lucie-Mae Sumner who plays Ella. It was a fabulous experience as Kylie and Lucie worked so well together and Kylie was so emotionally connected to both the story and the songs. Kylie is a genuine triple threat - a brilliant singer, actor and dancer. More than that she is an inspirational icon, so we felt very “lucky lucky lucky” to have her play such a big on-screen role in the musical production.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the production?
I have been so inspired by the audience reaction to this show. Sitting amongst them hearing huge belly laughs and gasps of recognition and sensing their engagement with the story and hearing them sing along to the songs and watching them dance on their feet has been truly exhilarating. I want audiences to keep enjoying - keep escaping - keep feeling the utter joy that this musical has to offer. I want them to enjoy feeling the love and warmth that is created with every performance. I want audiences to leave the show feeling happier and stronger for having seen it with the songs in their hearts.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to anyone thinking of stepping into the industry?
Whatever it is you have to offer the industry do it to the best of your ability with passion and integrity and keep pushing to serve audiences - keep them in your hearts and mind. Theatre is about coming together to experience emotions and share truths. Always be honest, always be emotional, always be true.
Second image credit: Marc Brenner