When the musical of Muriel’s Wedding,adapted from PJ Hogan’s hugely popular Australian 1994 film, premiered in Sydney at the end of 2018, Natalie Abbott went along to watch it with friends and was left tingling with emotion at what she’d seen.

Natalie Abbott as Muriel, with cast members. Photograph © Jeff Busby

Like Muriel Heslop, the daggy nobody from the small coastal town of Porpoise Spit, who moves to Sydney with dreams of a better life, Abbott grew up in the NSW town of Bomaderry in Shoalhaven, then moved to Sydney to study musical theatre at The Australian Institute of Music (AIM). She hadn’t seen the film when she saw the musical so she went along not really knowing the story and was taken aback by how much she understood and related to Muriel.

“I saw the show in Sydney when it was first on and I remember sitting there in the audience watching this and thinking ‘I’ve never related to a character so much in my entire life’,” says Abbott. “I was such a fan of the musical, I played the soundtrack all the time in the car with my friends,...