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Identical review – The Parent Trap is double the fun in musical form

The show had its world premiere last night

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

© Pamela Raith

What more could one ask for in a high-quality family musical? Identical at Nottingham Playhouse has charm, sincerity, humour, plenty of catchy songs and the best darn fluidly magical panoramic set design this side of Nottingham and the Austro/German Alps. Like the mighty Matterhorn, it is jaw dropping-ly good to view and the arc of the theatrical climb worth anticipating.

Author Erich Kästner's original novel Das Doppelte Lottchen (known throughout the English-speaking world and cinema-goers as The Parent Trap, has been faithfully translated into Identical, a fabulous musical theatre piece by musical maestros George Stiles and Anthony Drewe with an economically adroit and solidly witty book by the gifted and prolific Stuart Patterson.

This staged story of the ten year-old girl twins separated at birth and reunited at a lakeside summer camp, who swap places in life in order to separately meet their missing parents in Munich and Vienna, is an aural and visual feast. The peak of praise must go to set designer Robert Jones, video designer Douglas O'Connell and lighting designer Johanna Town. The combination of their visual artistry is seriously stunning. Keep an eye out for the rustling of the leaves on the trees, birds taking off, clouds scudding by, window lights going on and off, smoke leaving the steam train funnel on Munich station and the Straßenbahn (tram) passing, in the background, across the Playhouse stage. It's proper stage magic and benefits from such absolut wundervoll attention to detail.

Trevor Nunn's masterful direction is a total class act and such a delight to witness in a regional theatre. Matt Cole's choreography shines in the ballet scene and the beautiful Art Deco inspired après ballet reception. Caroline Humphris' musical supervision and the orchestration work of Tom Curran and band under musical director Tamara Saringer are top notch and pitch perfect accompaniment.Press night's twins Lisa and Lottie (Eden and Emme Patrick, with two other sets of twins, Kyla and Nicole Fox and Savannah and Sienna Robinson, also taking on the roles) give us their stage debuts tonight and are a naturally charming pair of girls and the audience's hearts are stolen rechts, links und mitte with their flawless stage talents and confidence. Both offer superb performances that match those of the adults and certainly enhance the show itself.

Emily Tierney plays the twins' mother Lisalotte with great warmth and sensitivity. James Darch balances the role of Lise and Lottie's flawed classical composer father with composure, sensitivity and vulnerability. Louise Gold is both hilariously commanding as Miss Muthesius at the summer camp and tenderly realistic as well-meaning house-keeper Roza. Gold also has a lovely romantic connection with Michael Smith-Stewart's lovable Dr Strobel. Identical sports a fairly large cast of adults and children and the whole ensemble work wonderfully well together in their performance energies to make the story-telling seamless.

It is very likely that delighted audience members will be heading home with a mélange of Stiles and Drew Identical ear worms from songs such as "In The Summer", "If I Became You", "My Little Girl", "It's Not For Me To Say", "Take One or The Other" and the title song "Identical" tickling their earlobes. With this show you certainly get ‘More Zwilling For Your Schilling' or double your fun for your dosh. Running in Nottingham before heading to Salford, go and see it and take your real or imaginary twin. You won't regret it. Either of you.