Step into the extraordinary world of 42 Balloons, where the skies are not the limit, but just the beginning of an audacious adventure at The Lowry Theatre.
The cast and creatives met with the press on Wednesday this fabulous new production, and it promises to be a treat.
The plot centres around truck driver, Larry Walters (Charlie McCullagh), who defies all the odds and FAA Airspace Regulations to make his lifelong dream a reality and fly sixteen thousand feet above Los Angeles – in an armchair – powered by weather balloons.
And the incredible thing is, this actually happened.
Filled with beautiful musical numbers, sumptuous set designs and a laugh a minute, this promises to be a big hitter on The Lowry’s jam-packed 2024 calendar.
Fancy a slice of the action? Get your tickets by clicking here
What is 42 Balloons about?
42 Balloons is an uplifting musical inspired by the highly improbable true story of how Larry, and his partner Carol Van Deusen, convinced their friends and family to help Larry achieve his dream of flying.
Featuring an irresistible, 80s pop-inspired score, 42 Balloons questions how far you would go to make your dreams come true.
Is the sky the limit, and what happens if it doesn’t all go to plan?
We sat down with Charlie who plays Larry, and Evie, who plays Evelyn Hoskins to discuss the show.
42 Balloons cast interview
How did you prepare for the unique characters of Larry and Carol in ’42 Balloons’?
Evie: Well, we’ve got the luxury of it being inspired by s true story so having literal facts about their lives is a luxury and its always really interesting to play people who are real.
Carol is still alive; she lives in LA so it’s quite a responsibility to present a person who existed and exists in the world, so you want to honour that and make sure you’re doing them justice.
Charlie: With Larry, there is so much actual footage, you can watch his interview with David Letterman on YouTube, you can watch the flight and see photos of him everywhere, so I think being able to utilise that is a nice starting point to expand upon.
But it is the same when Larry is no longer with us, so there is this extra pressure of wanting to do the memory of someone proud and like ‘oh if he could see this would he be happy with how he is presented?
The musical features an 80s pop-inspired score. How did you connect with the music, and did it influence how you approached your performance?
Evie: The music is amazing; it was the thing that drew me to the project initially.
When we were auditioning for it hearing the music I was like ‘This is so fun’ and for me as well I don’t have a particularly traditional musical theatre-sounding voice so to come across a score that doesn’t call for that is always really exciting for me.
Then the team wanted independent voices to come through in the show so that’s exciting and fun. Charlie: I think the music also does so much for the characters, so for Larry, one of his first numbers is ‘big balloon’ and it’s essentially a Meatloaf number.
As soon as you hear it you can hear the inspiration and you have Larry’s internal dialogue as these big bombastic rock anthems that show his passion, his heart on his sleeve, the character he is.
Whereas when you see him first meet Carol, it’s completely different. His internal and external voice and the different 80s genres do a lot of character work for him.
Larry Walters’ story is quite unusual. What aspects of the narrative did you find challenging to portray, and were there any particularly rewarding moments during the rehearsal or performance process?
Charlie: I think actually the craziest part about his character and his dream, essentially this goal that he has, was actually the easiest part to connect to. I feel like everybody has something like even in 2024 we still have people that feel like they can’t live their authentic selves, or be honest to their families, or have this dream that people don’t understand.
I’m from a little village in Northern Ireland and I wanted to be an actor, so this idea of having a crazy dream was the relatable part. I think the harder part for me was the second act and having to portray the part of someone who has spent his whole life with a goal and then achieved it. And now suddenly there’s this void, you spend your whole life chasing something and then you’ve got it like ‘now what?’ and I think that question was the most difficult and almost scary thing to answer as a person as well.
What would you say are some of your own craziest dreams?
C: I’d say I’m living my craziest dream right now. This is the dream- I’ve got a track coming out on Spotify today with our names on which is f**king mad. We’re originating a brand-new musical in a beautiful theatre with a story that people are dying to hear.
There’s something so rewarding, and I feel fortunate to be in this situation.
E: I think my craziest dream is to live in America one day. Andy did even say it would be good to take the show to LA.
Is there any particular theme or message that resonates with you?
E: The themes of suicide and mental health are felt throughout and are really important always. Love- and the people you love and how far you’re willing to go for that.
C: There’s a new lyric which I don’t think was in the original production- “What is the world without your stupid dream?”- I love that! The relationships and love are true themes, but I think the dissection of dreams, and everyone brings something and what is the world without that?
What do you think people can take away from the experience of the show?
E: Hopefully everyone leaves the theatre feeling inspired. It’s a hell of a journey I think people will leave during the interval feeling one thing and then leave feeling a completely different thing.
C: As a musical, so many shows you enjoy but I think this show challenges that because the emotions and twist and turns will invite conversation about life in general. I think people will leave thinking ‘if you want it, you can get it’ that’s a recurring theme. It’s just how you get it- and the consequences of doing so.
What are your plans for the future?
C: I’m staying in Manchester for the UK tour of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’- I’m taking a break from that to do this. We close this show on a Sunday with Jesus Christ Superstar then opens two days later in the same theatre. So I’ll then go back to being alternate Jesus in the tour until hopefully, this comes around again.
E: I have a project which is under wraps until next month. Keep your eyes peeled!
42 Balloons will be produced by Andy and Wendy Barnes from Global Musicals (SIX, The Choir of Man, Pieces of String, LIFT) and Kevin McCollum from Alchemation (In The Heights, Avenue Q, Rent, Mrs Doubtfire)
Head of Theatre Matthew Eames on 42 Balloons
We spoke to Matthew Eames, Head of Theatres at the Lowry, who was buzzing with excitement about the new production.
“I knew the story a little bit; the idea of a real-life story of a guy in 1982 deciding he wanted to fly up into the sky and working out a different way to do it sounded interesting immediately.
“That got me hooked initially, and then when I was there, the first hour was electrifying.
“The music, ’80s infused songs, all brand new, and the energy of the cast, and the real-life story of Larry and his wife, and how they achieve his dream—it’s wonderful.”
The cast are also super excited about the production, saying that the show has ‘all the hallmarks of becoming a cult classic.
Matthew continued: “I think the best shows give you something a little bit extra or tell you something about yourself, or you associate yourself with the characters on stage.
The show’s main character, Larry – is not your normal hero; he’s very much an everyman.
“You question why he is putting this dream ahead of everything else in his life. But you sort of buy into the idea that he has a dream that he wants to achieve and get behind him.
“I think the whole show is about to what lengths you will go to achieve your dream and then what happens afterwards. There’s a lot of joy in this production, following Larry’s journey.”
The Launch of 42 balloons sums up an exciting time for theatre in Greater Manchester, particularly at the Lowry.
MAtthew concluded: “I think it’s a really exciting time in the whole of England and the UK for new musicals.
“We’re a more exciting place to make new musicals than, say, New York at the moment.
“I think probably finances are a part of that as well.
“It’s very expensive to make shows in New York. But I think we’ve also got a cohort of some really exciting talent that are making shows.
“Rather than making pop songs or TV shows, they’re choosing to make new musicals, and they’re perhaps more mainstream than ever.
“I think The Lowry can play a really important part in that.
“Developing new talent is a part of what we do.
“We’ll still have the big favourites, whether it’s “Six,” or “Les Mis,”.
“They have a home at The Lowry, but we also have the room to try something new as well.
“It’s all about striking that balance.”
42 Balloons cast
The final cast for the upcoming musical “42 Balloons” at The Lowry theatre in Salford has been unveiled. Among the announced performers are Charlie McCullagh (known for roles in “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Dr. Zhivago”) taking on the character Larry, and Evelyn Hoskins (credited for performances in “Waitress,” “Gypsy,” and “Spring Awakening”) portraying Carol. T
hese actors are reprising their roles from a staged concert performance of the show in London in 2022.
The ensemble is further enriched with the addition of Gillian Hardie (whose credits include “Kinky Boots” and “Blood Brothers”) playing the role of Carol’s Mum, and Lejaun Sheppard (known for appearances in “The Book of Mormon” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”) taking on the character Ron.
42 Balloons is playing at The Lowry, Salford from 18 April – 19 May 2024.
You can get tickets to this magical production by clicking here