For those in their youth consumed by the 70’s legends the Osmonds last night’s show must have been a heart-warming skip down memory, for those of us who were not it was all a little bewildering. The audience was sharply divided into three camps – whooping, life-long fans, long suffering husbands and bewildered critics. The latter being by far the smaller group. This clearly does what it says on the front cloth. It is the story of the Osmonds from their early days to pretty much now and, had their lives had more dramatic turns, perhaps the story could have been more engaging, but it’s difficult to relate to these successful characters whose only anguish seems to be the dropping off of their TV rating. A later scene of bankruptcy has real bite and dramatic content but arrives for too late in proceedings. The narrator is Jay Osmond (engagingly and buoyantly played by Alex Lodge) who guides us through the biography with charm. He comes across as most likeable, affable and well-defined characters in the group. It should also be pointed out at this point the show is based on a story by Jay Osmond. The remaining brothers are played by Ryan Anderson, Jamie Chatterton and Danny Nattrass- all of whom wrestle with some very bland writing to bring the show to life. Charlie Allen as George Osmond at least has a single character trait to hold on to (highly demanding father) and Nicola Bryan as Olive is light and aptly maternal. Georgia Lennon as Marie Osmond stands out but once more does her best with the very slight material.
The group refer to themselves at one point as the Mormon Van Trapp Family which, albeit an accurate description, hardly suggest we’re in for a night of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. And we’re not. And this is the major flaw in the writing. Everyone is very nice and very friendly doing very nice and very friendly things in a very nice and very friendly way. The father getting angry with one of these sons for not being able to pronounce the word “indubitably” is about as close as we get to hard-hitting, gritty drama all evening.
Okay, so the plus points were a delightfully engaged audience of whoopers at a point when one would think their whooping days were behind then, but no they were there to recreate being an Osmond as much as our actors were there to recreate the group – it was a close call who gave the most convincing performance.
It’s a relentlessly wholesome and clean telling of a none too exciting tale, which the undoubted talents of the cast can do little to enliven or redeem. BUT it did have the music and Donny Osmond’s cap (the magical properties of which I had previously been unaware but when Donny donned it the years slipped away for our ageing whoopers and all was well in their worlds once more.) Tristan Whincup (and his cap) gave us that precious moment of Puppy Love. The music, mostly, consists of some very familiar and joyful tunes (all, of course, relentlessly wholesome and clean) which helped define the seventies.
Oh, the little Osmonds were a delight and need mentioning – Herbie Byers, Jayden Harris, Austin Redwood, Dexter Seaton, Miles Redwood and Austin Riley – gave us remarkable harmonises and could easily have earned longer stage time.
If you loved the Osmonds – you will undoubtedly love this. Playing until 29th October, https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/the-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/
Reviewer: Peter Kinnock
Reviewed: 25th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★