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REVIEW: Osmonds: A New Musical at Sunderland Empire


The Osmonds: A New Musical 

Sunderland Empire

Until Saturday 17 September 2022

Tickets available now from our affiliates  ATG Tickets: 

They said:  “The Osmonds: A New Musical with story by Jay Osmond tells the true story of the five brothers from Utah who were pushed into the spotlight as children and went on to create smash hits, decade after decade.  From their star residency on The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1969, to pop stars and ‘Osmondmania’ from 1971 to 1975, to the arrival of The Donny & Marie Show, a popular variety TV show, from 1976 to 1979, The Osmonds lived a remarkable life recording chart-topping albums, selling out vast arena concerts and making record-breaking TV shows - until one bad decision cost them everything.

The musical features a list of 1970s anthems, including One Bad Apple, Down by the Lazy River, Crazy Horses, Let Me In, Love Me for a Reason, (We’re) Having a Party, Puppy Love, Long Haired Lover From Liverpool, Paper Roses, and many more.”

New musicals can struggle to develop a fan base, this show clearly does not have such an issue. The Empire was packed with a mainly female audience. The Osmonds may have only had hit singles from 1970 - 1974 in the United Kingdom but clearly they had made an impression with an enthusiastic audience that could result in this show sticking around in this country for a while yet.

The show describes how the family went from appearing as a quartet on the Andy Williams Show in America to selling over 100 million records world wide. The posters state that the story is by the band’s drummer Jay Osmond and he was involved in the development of this production. As such it is very clear that this is HIS story.

The narration throughout the show is given by the character Jay (Alex Lodge) and the story begins with Jay stating that he wants out, to leave the band - he wants to go to college. With that bombshell dropped the action moves to the beginning and a younger group of lads appears. We had kids team Ogden on our show and Alan (Oliver Forde), Merrill (Jack Sherran), Wayne (Louie Stow), Jay (Lonan Johnson) appear as the group are booked on the Andy Williams Show for their first television show. The slot was such a success that the group was asked back, with younger brothers Donny (Nicholas Teixiera) and Jimmy (Lyle Wren), and before they knew it, they had a regular spot and a record deal.

It is clear that, in Jay’s story, that he wants to raise the issue of their childhood. The group’s leader was their father George (Charlie Allen), someone who had fought in the Army and was going to give the children military style discipline. He is called Sir and they stand to attention when he speaks. Their mother Olive (Nicola Bryan) is shown as someone who is supportive of the children but goes with the flow. The rehearsals were clearly intensive in order to appear on t.v. every week but their professionalism got them the reputation of the “one take Osmonds”.

With a string a US hit albums the band develop into young men and the cast changes. Jay is joined by Alan (Alex Cardall), Wayne (Danny Nattrass), Merril (Ryan Anderson) and Donny (Joseph Peacock). The vocal group learn how to play instruments - though this is not a feature of the show and the musicians, under musical director Will Joy are tucked off stage somewhere. 

There is more to this family as, in their words, it doesn’t matter who is doing lead as long as it is an Osmond. Jimmy (Tristan Whincup) and the families only daughter Marie (Georgia) soon feature.

So the show shows many of the highs, and some of the lows of success. It is packed full of songs and the hits are there. The vocals of the actors combine well to create the sound and, coupled with the great costume design, you can understand why the audience are transported back nearly 50 years.

Top vocal performance for me though went to Hartlepool’s own Georgia Lennon as Marie Osmond when she sang Paper Roses in the first act. 

As a jukebox musical telling the behind-the-scenes story of a band that the public didn’t get to see - this show works. The balance between off-stage drama and big hits performed well is about right to keep both the narrative flowing and the audience happy. It is clear that this is one person’s interpretation of events - but there is nothing wrong with that.

The action carries on through the “Donny and Marie” television series and up to a recent reunion and so we find out what happened after the UK hits stopped.

Proof that I liked it is that I got Alexa to stick on Crazy Horses as I was making breakfast the following morning. I wonder if there will be a cast recording?

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Pamela Raith

Tickets available now from our affiliates ATG TICKETS: 

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