One of musics most iconic families are the subject of a brand new jukebox musical that receives its world premiere not on the West End or Broadway but in the form of a UK tour. Kicking off in February this year, The Osmonds has been one of the shows I have been most excited to see despite not being overly familiar with their catalogue of songs or their story (Shocking, I know) so I couldn't wait for my time my turn to come to see this show, after hearing friends and theatre fabs rave about it over the past 2 months. But would my lack of prior knowledge of the group impact my enjoyment of the show?
The Osmonds - A New Musical tells the story of Merrill, Alan, Jay, Wayne, Donny and Marie Osmond alongside other members of their family as they cope with their momentous rise to fame and all the twists that came with it. With a story written by Jay Osmond himself, this is a loving recollection of their story set to a soundtrack of hits from their careers both as solo members and a group. With more than 100 million record sales to their name, there really is no shortage of songs to choose from.
The setting for this story sees Jay Osmond (played by Alex Lodge) narrate the story, kicking off with his departure from the group before going right back to the start. Providing a tongue in cheek, winking at the audience narrative, Alex is undeniably charming as Jay, spending more time on stage than any of his famous siblings allowing for them to prepare for their next big performance in suitably outlandish costumes (designed by Lucy Osborne) both fitting for the era and musical theatre itself.
Alan and Wayne Osmond are played by Jamie Chatterton and Danny Nattrass respectively – both wonderful in their roles, Ryan Anderson is an absolute standout as Merrill Osmond, delivering incredible vocals and an outstanding stage presence those who recently saw him in Pippin will be familiar with. For this performance, the role of the most famous Osmond, Donny, was played by understudy Tristan Whincup, who usually has an ensemble role including a small turn as Jimmy. Another example of how mind-blowingly good understudies were, Tristan was note-perfect in what is surely a challenging role. Together, the siblings had an authentic chemistry that bounced off the stage in all its harmless fun.
In a show dominated by the brothers, Georgia Lennon is refreshing as Marie Osmond, stealing the scenes she is in including a highlight performance of ‘Paper Roses’ and fabulous scenes portraying her partnership with brother Donny during their variety show. The Osmond clan is completed by Charlie Allen and Nicola Bryan as parents George and Olive. A revolving cast of talented children are on hand to perform as the group when they first started – at this performance, Jack Jones, Alfie Jomes, Alfie Murray, Tom Walsh, Osian Salter and Fraser Fowkes showcases a crazy amount of talent for their young ages, with Osian provoking audible “awws” from the audience as young Donny and Fraser effortlessly channelling little Jimmy with his performance of ‘Long Haired Lover from Liverpool’.
Let’s talk about the music. Timeless classics such as ‘Love Me For a Reason’ and 'Crazy Horses’ are just the top of the iceberg when it comes to this musical which delves further into the Osmond catalogue to pull out notable covers they recorded including ‘It Takes Two’, and a sensational finale of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’. Andy Williams' ‘Music To Watch Girls By’ gets a surprising appearance, while a beautiful sequence of ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ is full of festive cheer, despite it being April. The harmonies among the leads lifted the songs creating some of the most beautiful sounds you will ever hear on a stage.
With the classic songbook being arranged by Julian Bigg and Rich Morris, other musical highlights include Ryan Andersons soaring vocals on ‘The Proud One’, rousing act one finale ‘Let Me In’ and a performance of ‘Puppy Love’ from Tristan Whincup as Donny which reduced the audience of varying ages to a bunch of screaming teenagers – something that would usually fill me with dread, but I couldn’t help but buy into the infectious atmosphere as Osmondmania swept the theatre.
As the story was written by Jay himself, you do wonder how unbiased the story can be, with references to how he was the glue in the family feeling a little bit like a saviour complex. Co-written by Shaun Kerrison, who also directs, people may comment that the show lacks conflict and that in turn can make it dull – it’s true the most shocking thing that happens is the group loses a lot of money which leads to some harsh words (those expecting a punch up may be better off at an Oasis musical instead) but does every musical necessarily need so much conflict? Sometimes, it is nice to sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing you are not going to have every emotion ripped out of you and stomped on.
The staging for The Osmonds is among the best you will ever see from a touring production, with a fabulously bright and colourful set design from Lucy Osborne paired with stunning lighting from Ben Cracknell and clever use of sound from Dan Samson, imposing audience cheers to evoke the feeling of a classic Osmonds concert. One of the strongest elements has to be the choreography and musical staging from Bill Deamer, which of course uses the brothers’ original movement and brings it back to the stage for the 21st Century in what is some truly brilliant choreography.
I’ll be honest – I was intrigued by The Osmonds – A New Musical. While I love a good jukebox musical, I didn’t expect the show to be THIS good. Even as someone who didn’t know all of the songs (though admittedly I knew more than I expected) and whose first taste of Donny in the flesh was in panto at the Palladium just 4 short months ago, I was absolutely won over. Merging the worlds of a concert and musical theatre, the atmosphere really was palpable. A truly remarkable cast in a flawless production where every element comes together beautifully to make true theatre magic, Osmondmania well and truly claimed me in a show that is the best new jukebox musical I have seen in a long time.
Whether you grew up in that era or are a fan of the Osmonds or not, you will almost certainly love this show for a reason - the reason being it's a fantastic production. While it might be on a UK tour now, it feels inevitable that this is destined to light up the West End in the not too distant future.
The Osmonds - A New Musical tours the UK with dates currently booking until December 2022. Further dates into 2023 are to be announced. Full dates and tickets from https://theosmondsmusical.co.uk
Photos by Pamela Raith