Especially For You: An Interview with Pete Waterman
The music of Stock Aitken Waterman provided the soundtrack for a generation, with hits from Kylie, Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, Bananarama and more. Now the era-defining music is making its way to the stage in the world premiere of the official Stock Aitken Waterman musical, I Should Be So Lucky coming to Leeds Grand Theatre from Tue 12 to Sat 30 December 2023.
We caught up with the Hit Factory’s Pete Waterman, to discuss making a move into musical theatre, the enduring appeal of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman catalogue, and why now is the right time to bring the songs to the stage.
Written by Guest Author
From the music industry to musical theatre
Why is now the right time to launch the stage show?
I’d previously worked with a couple of people on it, but I think we’d never seen a story that was of any interest to us. Nobody came up with a story that we thought was emotional enough – they are very emotional songs and I think people didn’t get that.
Working with the cast in the theatre recently took Mike (Stock) and me back to when we wrote the songs. When you hear someone do a song slightly differently, the lyrics get to you. I guess nobody before had understood why the lyrics were so poignant. Yes, they were hits, but they were more than hits to the people who bought them; they were statements, particularly for young people. We’ve always guarded that; we never wanted to spoil that memory. I think that the people we talked to in the past didn’t see the depth of the songs; they just saw that they were hits and that didn’t work for us.
Has it been a huge jump from the music industry into musical theatre?
This is a very different genre for us – musical theatre – it’s hard work; it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. My admiration for the cast is unbelievable. The hours they work and the detail they put in. The last thing you want is for the writers of the music to sit in the audience frowning, but they’ve got to understand that these are our children; songs that are very special to us. We’re writers, but we’re now also the custodians of people’s memories, so we are touchy about how those songs are treated.
What do you think is your most successful song to date?
There’s no question, it’s Never Gonna Give You Up. It has taken on a life of its own. It’s easy to say that now that it has become almost legendary – I think last year it had 400 million hits, and it’s 35 years on. It’s a song that was written on the way to work with Rick and we didn’t take it that seriously at the time.
You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes. It’s when you see Kylie closing the Olympics or Rick doing Glastonbury and then doing this musical, you sit there thinking, ‘I didn’t think I’d be doing this 40 years ago’. I thought we’d do great just getting a couple of years out of it.
The production features endless hits from the Stock Aitken Waterman catalogue, do you have a favourite used within the show?
In this show, there are a couple of songs that really hit me hard [remembering] why we wrote them, because they’re done in a different way to how we did them, and it’s just beautiful. I think that’s what has struck me about this whole thing. George Dyer, the production’s Musical Director – what he’s done is absolutely great. You sit back and think, ‘I never saw the song like that’. Sonia’s song, Never Stop Me Loving You – I have never seen the way they do it in this musical. You just go, ‘Wow, why didn’t I think of that’. The musical had me in tears. [There are] two songs that every time they play them get to me because the lyrics are so important to us – you instantly remember what you were going through or why you wrote that lyric. All the Stock, Aitken & Waterman songs are Matt, Mike and myself, spread across a canvas.
Whose idea was it to get Kylie involved, and what is it like to work with her again after all these years?
It was the producer’s idea to get Kylie involved, and I won’t spoil it for anybody, but it works – I was as skeptical as the next man, but it does work quite brilliantly within the show. I’ve been so busy doing TV and other things that I couldn’t get to London to see her in rehearsals, but I’m doing a show with her soon, so we’ll get to catch up then. With all your artists, you never fall out with them. Because I’m that much older than all the guys they always treated me like their dad! If there was a problem they came to me; they didn’t go to the record company – I had to deal with all of it!
What do you hope audiences will take away from the production?
I hope audiences have fun with this show. This musical couldn’t have been timed better. We’re currently in a world that’s all over the place. I mean, we just need a bit of uplift as we’ve got enough grief.
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