This ‘juke box’ musical offers highly polished, undemanding, feel-good entertainment, showcasing, as it does, 30 songs dating from the 1960s to the 2000s in superbly choreographed (Bill Deamer) copies of the originals: the predominantly female audience at Brighton were clearly entranced by the show from the opening number.
The Osmonds – A New Musical purports to be the true story of the highly successful American family singing group from the point of view of Jay Osmond, so it may be slightly biased.
We are shown an example of the earliest performances using young actors: at the performance I saw these were Harrison Skinner (Merrill), Jack Jones (Alan), Tom Walsh (Jay), Alfie Jones (Wayne), Osian Salter (Donny) and Lyle Wren (Jimmy), all of whom acquitted themselves superbly, both in their singing and dancing. However, they were soon replaced by Alex Lodge as Jay, who has the most to do, as he tells his version of the progress of the family over the space of forty years or so. As with the other Osmonds, he has been well cast to look, sing, dance and speak like Jay himself, aided by some terrific wigs (Sam Cox) and costumes (Lucy Osborne – also responsible for the all-purpose, multi-level set).
Alex Cardall (Alan) again looks and sounds the part, as do Danny Nattrass (Wayne), Georgia Lennon (Marie), Tristan Whincup (Jimmy), Aidan Harkins (Merrill) and, especially, Tristan Whincup (Donny) – clearly the favourite of the members of the audience in the front row! (Remember “Puppy Love”? If not go and see the show to discover what the fuss is all about!)
Parents George and Olive are given rather two-dimensional roles , but in the hands of Charlie Allen and Nicola Bryan are very believable, especially whenever George instils army discipline into his children!
In secondary roles, Matthew Ives is very impressive as Andy Williams, who gave the Osmonds their first ‘break’, and sings ‘Music to Watch Girls By’ with typical Williams’ style.
The script is by director Shaun Kerrison and music supervisor Julian Bigg. They have clearly had difficulties as the Osmond family had few major disagreements so there is little dramatic tension in the telling of the story, except towards the end of Act Two, but one device they use cleverly is to have a working-class girl from Manchester (Wendy – superbly played by Sophie Hirst) writing to Jay Osmond at different times over the years, and gradually ageing.
For a touring show, the production values are very high – I quickly lost count of the number of costume changes each member of the 23 onstage cast has! Many of the songs are accompanied by a highly skilled band directed by Will Joy, whilst others are performed to backing tracks in order to successfully achieve the period sound and style needed. Two of the numbers in the second half, Love Me For a Reason and He Ain’t Heavy, clearly resonated with the audience as they enthusiastically joined in.
Lighting is by Ben Cracknell, with a reliance on follow spot operators who seemed to need a tad more rehearsal, as too often faces were left in darkness at the beginning of a number. Sound design, by Dan Samson, never allowed the voices to be swamped by the band as can happen, and the typical American slickness and professionalism of the whole show adds to the enjoyment of the whole show – and as for those fixed smiles!….
Many senior – and less senior – members of the audience obviously believed by the end of the 165 minute running time that they were actually seeing and hearing the real Osmonds on stage – belief had been totally suspended, and that is what theatre is all about!
The tour continues until early December, including ATG’s Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham 25 – 29 October if you cannot get to Brighton, or you find that it is SOLD OUT! Highly enjoyable – highly recommended!
Review by John Groves
You Loved Them For A Reason. Now, for the first time, you can see this sensational new musical and relive one of the world’s biggest ever boybands. THE OSMONDS: A new musical tells the official story from Jay Osmond about the five brothers from Utah who were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to create smash hits decade after decade.
Until Sat 1 Oct 2022
The Osmonds – A New Musical
Theatre Royal Brighton
Tue 25 Oct – Sat 29 Oct 2022
The Osmonds – A New Musical
The Alexandra, Birmingham