I SHOULD BE SO LUCKY

★★★★

_REVIEW.   it’s about _THEATRE.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.
  at _THE ALEXANDRA.   tickets _OFFICIAL SITE.   booking until _6th APR.

April 4, 2024

images © Marc Brenner.

With a handful of Cher and Tina-shaped exceptions, a solid rule of thumb is that the jukebox musical generally tends to fare better when charting its own course. Moulin Rouge, What’s New Pussycat? and Mamma Mia all being sterling, relatively recent, examples of confidently stepping outside of the dry, rote musical biopic formula and forging something that touch more original and engaging.

It neatly sets the scene nicely for Debbie Isitt’s latest outing, I Should Be So Lucky, a cheesy, fizzy, feel-good confection of joyful silliness, that marries the pop hits of Stock Aitken Waterman with an original story that itself feels like a cliffs notes catalogue of nineties and early noughties rom-coms.

When Kylie Minogue-obsessed blushing bride Ella (Lucie-Mae Sumner) is jilted at the altar, her bridal party and family decide to whisk her off on her Turkey honeymoon anyway, for some post-traumatic R & R. Once there, Ella finds herself entangled with a handsome local tour guide (Matthew Croke), crossing paths with a catty former rival (Sydney Isitt-Ager giving great bitch in the performance reviewed) all whilst ‘Team Ella’ get embroiled in their own panoply of chaos and holiday hijinks. And of course, runaway groom, Nathan (Billy Roberts) is in hot pursuit, after seeing the error of his ways.

It’s all inoffensive, bubblegum campness with an extra splash of colour. As ever, Isitt does a deft job of pulling out naturalistic performances and slicing plenty of comedy and giggles through what is almost certainly a rather overstuffed cast of characters. Serious musical theatre talent like Dominic Andersen and Melissa Jacques are regrettably given relatively little to do, their characters afforded fairly short shrift by dint of there being just so many buzzing about.

“As ever, Isitt does a deft job of pulling out naturalistic performances and slicing plenty of comedy and giggles through what is almost certainly a rather overstuffed cast of characters.”

There isn’t a tremendous amount of depth or nuance afforded to the central trio who form the show’s central love triangle, despite all three actors doing their utmost. And by the time So Lucky is introducing what feels like its forty-seventh subplot a mere handful of minutes before the curtain call, you almost find yourself ready to commit the ultimate sacrilege of wishing for less Kylie (who appears frequently throughout in video cameo form).

And yet, despite its overly busy and hyperactive book, and the sense that it keeps even its central trio at a very shallow surface level, there’s an irrepressible sense of levity and fun that courses throughout I Should Be So Lucky. It jaunts along at a brisk pace, switching up set pieces, characters and numbers with enough regularity to keep things entertaining and kinetic. And with a soundtrack that includes such dance floor classics as ‘Respectable’, ‘Step Back In Time’ and ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, not to mention the titular anthem, you’re never more than a few minutes away from another banger. It’s just a shame that some of them are so fleeting – Sumner’s sizzling rendition of Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’, for instance, is cut quite criminally short.

If some of the cast do feel a smidgeon wasted, they are nonetheless all quite excellent. Giovanni Spanò steals scenes left, right and centre as Nathan’s animated best man, Ash. Hot on his heels in the performance reviewed was a joyous Elliot Broadfoot, showcasing pinpoint comic timing, soulful vocals and fabulousness covering the role of Ella’s flamboyant bestie, Michael. Consummate character actor extraordinaire, Jamie Chapman, meanwhile, gives arguably the turn of the night as kindly, sassy and routinely hilarious concierge, Spencer. Jessica Daley is similarly a hoot as Ella’s droll, matter-of-fact sister Britney, as is Jemma Churchill as spunky, outspoken nan, Ivy.

“…it is principally the supporting cast who get the big laughs and arguably the more interesting beats.”

The core trio of Sumner, Roberts and Croke make the very most of the sparing moments of lightness and shade that they get, but it is principally the supporting cast who get the big laughs and arguably the more interesting beats. A slight shame, but all three are in fine voice and there’s no denying the talent up on the stage.

Along with the aforementioned pop ins from Kylie via a magic video mirror, and some genuinely impressive staging and design work from Tom Rogers and Howard Hudson, there’s no denying just how visually impressive So Lucky is, too, particularly for a touring production. It’s a big, tropical, sun-kissed treat of a show that impresses aesthetically and technically at every (rapid) turn.

“…ultimately, it knows exactly what it is, who it is pitched at, and doesn’t even attempt to offer up any semblance of being otherwise.”

Perhaps the most salient note concerning I Should Be So Lucky is that, ultimately, it knows exactly what it is, who it is pitched at, and doesn’t even attempt to offer up any semblance of being otherwise. It is sugary, hen do/girls night out perfection, peppered with that incomparable (if here a trifle over-eager) Isitt eye for funny and character. Sure, its book feels like it could comfortably chop out a quarter or so of its characters and diversions to give its leading triad in particular a little more room to breathe.

But it looks great, feels big-budget and is winningly performed by all. If it’s funny, uncomplicated, unpretentious and infectious good times you are looking for – with the added benefit of an extra dose of digital Kylie thrown in for good measure – then dust off your passport, whip out the lilos, give yourself a few squirts of the suncream and book a flight for the sun, sea and silliness of So Lucky post-haste.

Uncomplicated, unpretentious, funny, sunny feel-good. A little too busy and erratic to be a serious contender to challenge the jukebox greats, but a solid cast and elevated production values keep the laughs, hijinks and pop hits coming with real campy verve.

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