The Osmonds: A New Musical
For people of a certain age The Osmonds encapsulated the pop music of a particular era with a string of hits and TV appearances that captured the hearts of a generation of young women. For some of us, the Osmonds were far from cool, that bubble-gum, teeny pop sound simply did not fit.
Last night, as a member of the latter group I was reminded of those hits and also shown just how good they were, The Osmonds were talented musicians and creators of great pop. But Jay Osmond’s new musical play does far more than that, it actually reveals the story behind what was in fact a global phenomenon. And he does it in a way that does not shy away from the harsh realities of growing up in a strict Mormon family driven by a militaristic father and compliant mother. This is no juke-box musical though, it has a great storyline based on their lives and the pressures they were subjected to in a world that lacked the usual normalities of childhood.
If that sounds dark and heavy then worry not, because the whole is sugar coated in the joys of being hit makers, soaring to the top of pop charts and TV ratings.
To achieve all this on stage of course requires a stunningly talented cast and this lavish production certainly has one, from the teeniest of the child stars playing them as juveniles to the adult roles. At this performance those kids were; Osian Salter, Jack Jones, Alfie Jones, Harrison Skinner, Lyle Wren and Tom Walsh, all of them excellent in every sense, step and note perfect – and cute too.
The adult members of the cast were equally impressive, and this achieved with the presence of three understudies. On this occasion the role of Merrill Osmond undertaken brilliantly by Aidan Harkins, Alan Osmond by Alex Cardall and Donny Osmond by Tristan Whincup. You would have not known that they were stand-ins had we not been told and in particular Aidan Harkins whose vocals were stellar.
The principal role falls to Jay played by Alex Lodge and he is charged with telling the story, a story that the real Jay has made touchingly personal. He reveals the stresses of their lives and particularly of his sometimes less than comfortable place in the story. He also reveals the truth about their fall from popularity and financial ruin, a fact that until last night I was unaware of and a fact that in the second half adds real depth to the production and lifts it above the standard pop music vehicle.
The one element I felt was missing was their faith, briefly referred to on a couple of occasions but never explored in any depth, clearly a definite decision and perhaps the right one for this show.
The cast are excellent, Bill Deamer’s clever choreography captures the era beautifully as does the set. A special mention must go to Georgia Lennon whose portrayal of Marie is beautifully nuanced and her voice simply stunning.
On the down side the performance last night was marred by some clunky lighting cues and a few sound issues, but even so nothing could detract from this well crafted show. Hats off to Jay Osmond for telling his story in such a frank but also entertaining way.
Theatre Royal Brighton