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Review: 42 Balloons at The Lowry is ‘a captivating look at love, dreams and sacrifice’

42 Balloons debuted at The Lowry last night and has all the hallmarks of a classic

You may have heard the story of Lawnchair Larry, but if you haven’t – let me fill you in.

It’s 2nd of July 1982. Using a lawn chair and approximately 42 helium-filled weather balloons, truck driver Larry Walters plans to defy all the odds to make his lifelong dream a reality and fly above Los Angeles.

And this is the subject of the sparkling new musical, 42 Balloons, which has landed at the Lowry.

42 Balloons at The Lowry

42 Balloons

At the centre of this exciting new production are Charlie McCullagh and Evelyn Hoskins, reprising their roles as Larry and Carol with an authenticity that captivates from the first note to the final song.

McCullagh’s portrayal of Larry is a masterclass in quirky oddball charm, infused with moments of comedic brilliance that leave the audience in stitches.

From his hilarious drunk dad-dancing at the wedding reception to his earnest determination to defy the odds and take flight, McCullagh brings depth and nuance to the character, painting a vivid portrait of a man driven by unbridled passion and a sense of adventure.

Evelyn Hoskins plays his devoted wife, Carol, her vocals soaring with emotion and resilience.

She shines as Carol, Larry’s devoted wife whose unwavering support and resilience serve as the emotional anchor of the production.

With vocals that soar with emotion and power, Hoskins effortlessly navigates the highs and lows of Carol’s journey, from tender ballads that tug at the heartstrings to electrifying numbers that transport audiences back to the glitz and glamour of the ’80s.

Together, they anchor the narrative with a heartwarming chemistry despite being an odd couple, in a passionate love story of how much someone is willing to sacrifice for their love. 

Despite the odds stacked against them and the challenges they face as an odd couple, their passionate love story serves as a poignant reminder of the lengths we’re willing to go for those we hold dear.

As the play unfolds, we’re given glimpses into Larry’s life and the experiences that have shaped his dreams, allowing his character to fully develop and resonate with audiences on a deeply personal level.

By the end, we’re left with a profound understanding of his motivations and a newfound appreciation for the power of human resilience and the pursuit of dreams against all odds.

No matter how strange those dreams are.

Gillian Hardie as Carol’s Mother 

Gillian Hardie delivers an incredible performance, the highlight being ‘Carol’s Soliloquy’ which brings the house down with laughter. She’s swigging a cocktail, lamenting her beloved daughter marrying a loser and cracking jokes left, right and centre. 

Her portrayal of a mother grappling with her daughter’s unconventional love story is both endearing and hilarious, providing a fabulous moment of levity. The audience loves it.

Ron and The Kid

Lejaun Anthony breathes life into the character of Ron, Larry’s old friend from the Vietnam War whose presence adds depth and poignancy to the production.

As the man behind the camera, Anthony brings a sense of authenticity to Ron, capturing the essence of a loyal friend and companion who stands by Larry’s side through thick and thin. With slick choreography and undeniable stage presence, he delivers a powerful performance.

‘The Kid’ was played by Tinovimbanashe Sibanda, who may well be the only person on earth inspired by Larry’s antics. Her portrayal adds a layer of humanity and introspection to the narrative.

The Kid serves as a symbol of innocence and wonder, offering a fresh perspective on the events unfolding before us.

In moments of doubt and uncertainty, it’s The Kid who reminds us of the power of dreams and the profound impact they can have on our lives.

42 Ballons on a talkshow

42 Balloons
Larry and Letterman

A shout-out must go to the ensemble member who plays the schmoozy David Letterman, in a wonderful disorienting scene where Larry has to go on Television to make back the $15,000 the family spent on his flight. 

There’s an inventive scene where someone on stage is holding the camera that is projecting on to the backstage. It makes for brilliant viewing. It’s a highly polished move and mirrors Larry’s disorientation and loss of identity. 

Larry is quickly drawn in by the showbiz system, chewed up and spat out by the talk show hosts demanding him to perform, to be funny, and ultimately laugh at his dreams. 

The Music of 42 Balloons

Perhaps the true star of the show is the music. From riotous romps through ’80s glam rock to soothing ballads that tug at the heartstrings, the songs of “42 Balloons” are a true delight that will have you humming long after the final curtain falls.

The songs are a true delight (I’ve had 42 Balloons and a Lawn Chair stuck in my craw since I first heard it). 

As Larry begins to make his dream a reality, the claustrophobic stage is opened up to reveal a rock and roll band who had been playing the numbers all night long. 

It’s a great moment just before the intermission when Larry jumps up and joins the band, channelling his inner Freddie Mercury and rocking a number. The inner rockstar in him is finally about to come out. 

Innovative stage design

The production’s innovative stage design, coupled with dynamic choreography by Alexzandra Sarmientoelevates the storytelling to new heights.

When Larry takes flight, there is a beautiful moment as the weather balloons inflate and he heads skyward while singing a ballad. With beautiful writhing dancing from the ensemble it really adds so much to a powerful performance. 

The stage comes alive from the first number and we are sucked into this exciting world of Larry. 

The ensemble’s emotive dancing and incredible facial expressions just add so much fun to a production already bouncing with joy. 

Andrezej Goulding’s video design

Andrezej Goulding’s video design adds another layer of depth to the production, seamlessly blending projections and lights to augment the action on stage. 

Combined with Bruno Poet’s masterful stage lighting, the result is a visual spectacle that transports audiences to the extraordinary.

Tickets for 42 Balloons at The Lowry

42 Balloons is not only a celebration of one man’s dream to fly but also a testament to the power of love and sacrifice. 

With its captivating performances and innovative production elements, it’s sure to be an unforgettable theatrical experience. You get the feeling this is going to be a big hit.

You can get tickets to see 42 Balloons at the Lowry by clicking here

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