This adaptation of PJ Hogan’s beloved film already proved itself a critical and popular hit when it premiered in Sydney in 2017. Almost entirely re-cast, including the key role of Rhonda only a few weeks before opening night, could Muriel’s Wedding the Musicalmaintain the magic for its Melbourne season? The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’, with newcomer Natalie Abbott shining in the title role and Stefanie Jones boldly stepping up from understudy to co-star as Rhonda in this fun, heartfelt and intelligent adaptation that’s arguably better than the 1994 original.

Natalie Abbott as Muriel. All photographs by Jeff Busby

Hogan himself wrote the script, and has included much of what made the movie such a delight. Misfit Muriel Heslop escapes her small-minded Gold Coast hometown of Porpoise Spit, her dysfunctional family, including dodgy politician dad Bill, and the nasty ‘it’ girls led by Tania. With her rebellious new friend Rhonda, Muriel starts a new life in Sydney, where timid first love with Brice is overrun by an unlikely marriage to a hot international swimming champion who needs an Australian bride.

This time he’s a Russian called Alex, but there are two much...