THE OSMONDS – A New Musical
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 15th March 2022
Some bands find their back catalogues turned into jukebox musicals. Others have their life stories dramatized with their own music forming the score to the show. This new musical about The Osmond Brothers falls into the latter category. The rags-to-riches storyline is well and truly in place, and you know that sooner or later, the wheels are going to come off. But will it be drink, drugs, sickness, or even a plane crash that will take the shine off world-wide fame and put the strain on the artists’ personal lives?
Jay Osmond himself has provided the story, formalised into the show’s book by Julian Bigg and Shaun Kerrison. Onstage Jay (Alex Lodge) narrates the story, from early childhood success as a barbershop quartet on The Andy Williams Show to global acclaim, and the multitudes of screaming fans not seen since The Beatles split up. Alex Lodge is personable and good-humoured; as Jay he is said to be the ‘glue’ in the family, and he also keeps the show together, in an excellent performance. We see events unfold through Jay’s eyes, giving the show a ring of authenticity, and a more personal feel.
As the brothers, Ryan Anderson imbues Merrill Osmond with vulnerability; Jamie Chatterton gets across Alan Osmond’s stern leadership; Joseph Peacock’s Donny Osmond, complete with purple cap, sings like an angel about Puppy Love; and Danny Nattrass’s Wayne Osmond also gets his moment to shine in a later, more poignant scene. Georgia Lennon channels Marie Osmond (the girl one) to perfection; and Austin Riley’s turn as Little Jimmy is absolutely spot on. The young boys who portray the brothers early on are also phenomenal and bring the house down.
Ruling the roost is Charlie Allen as strict disciplinarian father, George Osmond, while Nicole Bryan’s mother Olive brings a warmer style of parenting. Allen is superb, making George more than a barking bully, a strong man, motivated by love, albeit in a militaristic fashion!
The entire family group go flat out to recreate the spirit of the era, the hit songs, the singing… aided in no small way by Bill Deamer’s 1970s-informed choreography. Shaun Kerrison’s direction puts the performances at the forefront. By the time we get to the drama of the second act (the wheels coming off the family business) we have come to love these incarnations of the characters.
Lucy Osborne’s colourful costume designs evoke the spirit of the age: those white suits, the colours ascribed to each brother… while her set economically evokes tv studios, concert stages, and the family home.
The hits keep coming: One Bad Apple, Let Me In, Going Home, Love Me For A Reason… and, of course, Crazy Horses. People of a certain age are awash with the nostalgia of it all, but even if you’ve come along and never heard of The Osmonds (how?) you will be swept along by the sheer energy of the staging, the perfection of the harmonies, the irresistible melodies of songs that have stood the test of time, performed here by a flawless cast and a top-notch live band.
There is a lot of humour too, and some touching moments of drama as tensions within the family reach breaking point. There’s a glorious moment where Jay is introduced to a fan who wrote endless letters thirty years ago, which sums up our experience of the show. Well, mine anyway. I was fortunate enough to meet the real Jay Osmond during the interval, and I did my level best not to keel over in a faint.
A joyous, exuberant and heart-warming show, chronicling a moment of popular culture – well, fifty years in the business, and then some! Ultimately, it’s a testament to what The Osmonds did best, and that’s entertainment. Musical theatre has got a second show about Mormons, and this one’s a party!
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆