'How long have you waited for this?" Kylie Minogue asked a sea of teary forty-somethings, drunk on nostalgia and mulled cider. It was a good question. Originally due to take place on a soggy summer's day in Hyde Park, The Hit Factory Live was cancelled to much outrage from fans who had waited aeons to hear Kylie and Jason serenade each other again. The gig was eventually rescheduled and, in true Pete Waterman style, seamlessly rebranded as A Christmas Cracker. Which was apposite, as it turned out to be pure pantomime.
There were the goodies, such as Claire from Steps, whose much documented battle with her weight meant she got a loud, supportive cheer every time she sang a solo. And there were the baddies: if there's a better panto villain than Pete Burns I'll eat his massive hat. And veil. And platforms. And just when you thought it couldn't get any camper, along came Sunitta singing "Toy Boy" in her pants.
Before The Big Duet there were 25 years of Stock-Aitken-Waterman hits to get through. Their Hit Factory production line churned out number ones like frozen sausages. Thankfully, the gristly one-hit wonders (Princess, 2 Unlimited, Hazell Dean) were rolled on and off quickly, to make way for Steps, Rick Astley and a Bananarama split. (Only two remain.) The years hadn't always been kind. The close-up screen was not their friend. But hearing the songs live sounded (almost) as good as when you'd made up dance routines to them on cassette in your bedroom. And if the acts couldn't move like they used to, at least their backflipping dancers made up for it.
Eventually it was time for the prom king and queen. Many were here "especially for them". Ahh, Kylie – age cannot wither her (or is it the Botox?), but a post-rehab and reality TV Jason Donovan, while he seems lovely, now looks like a cross between Jez from Peep Show and Gary Barlow on a bad day. But as the opening "ooohs" of "Especially for You" kicked in, you forgot that Kylie dumped him for Michael Hutchence, or that Jason told Piers Morgan he shagged her in a Travelodge. Suddenly they were Scott and Charlene again. As Donovan sang "You changed my life ...", you sensed there was real feeling in it for him (and almost forgot he couldn't sing). For a brief and beautiful moment, you believed them when they warbled "And now we're back togetherrr, foreverrrr". But 25 years have passed. She's Kylie. And he's that bloke off the Iceland ad.