The Osmonds musical on tour – review
The show is based on the career of the iconic quintet
As, admittedly, someone who did not grow up in the time of ‘Osmondmania' – when the Osmond Brothers (later joined by their sister, Marie) were at the height of their fame – taking a trip to see the brand new bio-musical was not only an evening of entertainment but one of education: how did the "Mormon Von Trapps" get their start, were there any difficulties along the way, and just how many records did they sell again?
Middle brother Jay Osmond provides the story for this stage show (co-written with Shaun Kerrison), which naturally places adult Jay (played by strong production leader Alex Lodge) as the narrator. He chronicles the group's rise, adding in all the key facts – meeting Walt Disney, selling 100 million records – to support the show's in-scene dialogue. Perhaps due to Jay's involvement in the piece, there are moments which display him in an extremely desirable light. This includes interludes, presumably to cover costume changes, of UK fangirl Wendy (Katy Hards having much fun in the role) writing effusive letters to Jay. There is a point to it though, culminating in a touching moment towards the end of the show.
With so many hits, and so many brothers, there's a lot of material to be covered – the running time is just shy of 3 hours. Starting at their humble beginnings on the Andy Williams (played with charisma by Alex Cardall) Show, we meet the brothers as children, played by an incredibly talented children's team whose harmonies are just as good as the real thing (in order of credits, at this performance: Jack Jones, Alfie Jones, Alfie Murray, Tom Walsh, Osian Salter and Fraser Fowkes). Drilled by their Army-trained father (Charlie Allen) with support from mother Olive (Nicola Bryan), the show drives home that the family were incredibly disciplined, indoctrinated to "not be sorry, be better than last night". As the years roll on and the boys pull away from their father to focus on an edgier (for the time) style of music, the cracks begin to emerge despite the smiles plastered on their faces during the "Donny & Marie" variety show – one of the last of its kind.
The cast's energy throughout the performance never wanes. The main Osmond gang perform the majority of the numbers featuring Bill Deamer's groovy choreography, evocative of the group's many live and television performances, including a tap number. Indeed the set (design by Lucy Osborne) itself is framed like a '60s TV screen. As eldest brother Alan, Jamie Chatterton shows the struggles of bearing the weight of your family legacy on your shoulders while Ryan Anderson and Danny Nattras, as Merill and Wayne, respectively, tap into the emotional moments in the story with beautifully sung solo moments. Georgia Lennon sparkles as Marie.
With periods of back to back songs, at times you feel as though you're at a real Osmonds concert, particularly during Donny's (Joseph Peacock) signature tune "Puppy Love". The audience begin to sway, mouthing along with the words and reverting back to their teen selves. It's really sweet and I imagine this is what I'll look like when the inevitable One Direction musical materialises in twenty years. The narrative explains the group's phenomenon, and the audience are proof of it.
Even with these energetic and infectious performances, the piece could do with a little tightening. Full performances of songs could be trimmed and the best dramatic scene (the family's argument surrounding their impending bankruptcy) could come a little earlier to allow room for the repercussions to follow. Any brother's troubles are solved quite quickly, though one supposes the show is more of a celebration with a dash of realism than a gritty drama, so serves its purpose.
Featuring a wealth of the group's hits, trendy flares and floppy wigs, this is a charming musical which will sweep you back to yesteryear and remind you of the importance of family - and you might even learn a thing or two about one of showbiz's premiere families along the way, too.