There’s a definite party spirit and an excited buzz in the air at New Wimbledon Theatre tonight. Because, let’s be honest, a musical about The Osmonds was always likely to draw some pretty die-hard fans. Sure enough, the majority of the audience are women who would have been teenagers when the Osmonds were big in the 1970s. However, many have brought along partners, or grown up children, some are even here with grandchildren, all of which helps create a lovely family atmosphere. Safe to say, the merchandise stand was doing a steady trade in T-shirts.
For anybody not familiar with the band (Ed: surely anyone under 40 we’d assume then?) The Osmonds were the squeaky-clean Mormon family group from Utah. After guesting on ‘The Andy Williams Show’ as young children in 1962, their rise to fame was stratospheric. Initially four brothers – Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, they would later be followed by younger siblings, Donny, sister Marie and finally, Jimmy. Teenage girls all over the world became obsessed with them. Ten thousand crowded Heathrow airport just to try to catch a glimpse of them. Suffice to say, they were HUGE.
This show itself is based on Jay Osmonds‘ memoirs. He charts their rise, fall and return, their strict ex-military father, family loyalties and fallouts, growing up in the spotlight and missing out on normal life. But its the hits we’ve surely come from and they are here: ‘One Bad Apple’, ‘Yo Yo’, ‘The Proud One’, ‘Love Me For A Reason’, and so many more. The songs just keep coming and the audience revel in them.
A set of Osmond children delight in their little red blazers and bow ties, and all really deserve a name check: Oliver Forde (Alan), Jack Sherran (Merrill), Louis Stow (Wayne), Lyle Wren (Jimmy), Lonan Johnson (Jay), and Nicolas Teixeira (Donny). They really are the personification of cute. The adult Osmonds are led by narrator Jay (Alex Lodge) who engages well with his audience. Special mention should also be made of Wendy (Sophie Hirst), a typical teenager who writes fan letters to Jay. I strongly suspect Wendy epitomised many in the audience. Her regular interludes are comedy gems.
As with nearly all touring shows that come through New Wimbledon Theatre, choreography is outstanding with precision timing. Plus vocals are impressive, both individual and ensemble, though Marie (Georgia Lennon) especially stand out. The well-designed costumes take us back in time, from the tight flared trousers and 70s patterned shirts to the stage costumes encrusted with diamante. And then there is the set, minimal but effective, instead relying on clever lighting to change things up. There are a few moments that don’t flow terribly well – a pillow fight and a Christmas scene feel a little out of place but elsewhere it all moves along at a nice steady pace.
The audience gleefully travel back in time with cheering, singing and arm-waving aplenty. As a weeny bopper growing up in the back of beyond, I could only dream of seeing The Osmonds. But it would appear, dear reader, that my obsession survived the decades. Because when Donny (Joseph Peacock) donned the infamous purple baker boy hat and launched into ‘Puppy Love’ I confess I screamed like a lovestruck teen. I hasten to add I was by no means alone.
The finale brings a mix of hits ending with the high energy ‘Crazy Horses’ and a surprise appearance from Jay Osmond himself, joining in with the party, along with the audience all by now on their feet singing and dancing.
So, if we assume that the only people going along will be fans then they will be a more than happy audience. Being transported to more simple and carefree days for a few hours surely can’t be a bad thing, especially in these increasingly worrying times.
Based on memoirs by: Jay Osmond
Book by: Julian Bigg & Shaun Kerrison
Additional Material by: Bosse Andersson & Anders Albien
Directed by: Shaun Kerrison
Produced by: Royo, Twins Entertainment, Vicky Nojesproduktion, Krall Entertainment, Aria Entertainment & Guy James Theatrical
Musical Supervision & Arrangements: Julian Bigg & Rich Morris
Musical Direction: Will Joy
Choreography & Musical Staging: Bill Deamer
The Osmonds – a new musical plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until 27 August, before it continues its national tour until 3 December. All dates and further information can be found here.