Review: The Osmonds – A New Musical is full of fun with plenty of killer songs

This new musical is told in true jukebox style, and is written by Jay Osmond and told from his perspective
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If you remember The Osmonds from the 1970s, you will recall that, like The Jackson 5, they grew up on television

And even though this decade is one which is remembered for the daring Avant Garde style of David Bowie and Kate Bush, The Osmonds’ one hundred million record sales come from the fact that they were represented as the boys next door – clean cut, clean shaven and as pure as the driven snow – so that their fans feel like they belong to them.

This equals cash, as you are left with a money machine designed to sell as much merch as possible, as well as music. 

Photo: Pamela Raith

These bands were marketed in such a slick way, that the fan is made to feel as they are dating them and each of them would have something to appeal to someone in the audience. 

Cue the cute one, the sexy one, the geeky one etc, way before the Spice Girls were bringing their brand of girl power to the pop world.

And they call it? Puppy Love, of course and that number is included in The Osmonds – A New Musical alongside a conveyer belt of other hits, all ready to support Jay’s side of the story. 

Some darker elements are explored, including the fact that their overbearing father speaks to them all as if they are in his army.

This causes resentment and splits the family. But very few of them speak out, and their Mormon religion is explored, but very loosely.  

Photo: Pamela Raith

Their father is also their manager, and his view is that the boys are married to the band; this way they sell more records, as they are seen as available, fulfilling the dream of young girls everywhere. 

And there is a cute plot device in which we hear their number fan from Manchester, Wendy (played with real enthusiasm by Sophie Hirst) read out the letters she writes to them, and we see how the music gets her through her tough life.

The plot also follows the Osmonds’ rapid rise to fame from children on the Andy Williams show, and this gives a group of child actors the chance to shine.

Osian Salter, Jack Jones, Alfie Jones, Harrison Skinner, Tom Walsh and Fraser Fowkes all acquit themselves well and have great stage presence as the six singing superstars.

Bill Deamer’s choreography has a nostalgic feel to it, recalling the band’s signature moves, but it also provides the show with a sense of energy and fun. 

Shaun Kerrison is the show’s co-writer as well as director, and the first half feels way too long and slower than the second half. This is mainly because there are simply too many songs to fit in. Shorter, snappier versions of these hits would work better, with smoother transitions. 

The songs in the main are performed as numbers from a gig or TV appearance, and that does slow the show down somewhat. If they were sutured into the narrative as part of the dialogue, it would give the audience a chance to catch their breath and the show would move far quicker.

Photo: Pamela Raith

The story by Jay Osmond means that he gets his perspective across, but it also means that his ‘character’ appears in the plot similar to the narrator in Blood Brothers. Whenever there is any bad news, he is there waiting to tell the audience. 

And we lose any narrative perspective or character development from any of the other members of the family. 

Marie Osmond is played with a steely sense of survival by Georgia Lennon, but she is simply there, we don’t know anything about her or what her views are. It is testament to this brilliant performer, though, that we still remember Marie, as she is excellent.

The same goes for the rest of the family, bar Jay. We hear snippets from them but their dialogue is reactionary in the main.

Photo: Pamela Raith

In the second half, we get the full-on drama of bankruptcy and the fact that the people that the family trusted to run their affairs have been siphoning money from the business. 

This should be a moment for other characters to shine and tell their story. But they are reduced to simply responding “Yes sir” to their controlling father.

The fans want to hear those killer songs, and there are plenty of those. 

From One Way Ticket to Anywhere through to Crazy Horses, they are all performed with the right amounts and nods and winks to the band by a spirited and energetic cast.

Photo: Pamela Raith

Ryan Anderson (Merrill), Jamie Chatterton (Alan), Alex Lodge (Jay), Danny Nattrass (Wayne), and Joseph Peacock (Donny) all bring a sense of fun and wistfulness, and there is no doubt that the audience feel misty eyed as a result.

If you are an Osmonds fan, you will be reminded that you do love them for a reason; they know how to entertain. For non-fans, this does not feel as slick or accessible as The Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon or Get Up, Stand Up – the Bob Marley Musical.

But The Osmonds – A New Musical does give you the chance to dig out your Donny scarf from the back of your wardrobe and wave it around in the air like you just don’t care, and relive your memories of your favourite wholesome band.

The Osmonds – A New Musical is at the Palace Theatre until 13th August and can be booked here.

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