the osmonds musical

Review: The Osmonds – A New Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: The Osmonds – A New Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

“The whole show is a glorious opportunity to wallow in 70s nostalgia, from the flared jumpsuits and shirts with pointy collars to the television testcard set.” Jenny Booth reviews.


Which of the Osmonds you preferred was a hot topic at my primary school. I liked Donny, the youngest and prettiest; my best friend Susie liked the eldest, Alan. Neither of us paid much attention to Jay, a middle brother. How wrong can you be? The Osmonds, a new show about the rise and fall of this 70s family boy band (plus sister), is told from Jay’s point of view, and he emerges from it as a thoroughly attractive person: funny and level-headed during the insane fame loaded on the family (one of their tens of thousands of screaming fans smashed her way into their hotel with an axe then fainted at the sight of them), a peacemaker on the rare occasions things were fractious, but nobody’s fool. “We’re the Mormon von Trapps,” he jokes. “You’re the glue that holds them together,” his proud mum Olive cheers him in a rare down moment, pressing a fan-mail letter into his hand. These two strands – the running commentary provided by Jay’s character, and the regular letters from super-fan Wendy of Manchester – stitch the songs and scenes of this jukebox musical together into a loose narrative. Alex Lodge is a tour de force as Jay, bouncing a fraction higher and swaying a touch more crisply than the rest in the dance routines, and winning the audience’s affections with his wide-eyed, good-natured humour.

The show is based on Jay’s 2010 autobiography, and while it doesn’t go deep on character it is a mine of Osmonds facts and period nostalgia. Like many child stars, the Osmonds had a domineering, perfectionist parent – their father, George (Charlie Allen), who from early childhood would get them up at 4.30am to drill them military-style. The show hints that at different times lead singer Merrill, Wayne and even disciplinarian Alan struggled with this controlling behaviour, and later with jealousy of Donny and Marie, but none of them rebelled against the rigid Osmond creed of faith, family and career. The show depicts no rock-star misbehaviour: frisbeeing pizza into a crowd of fans was as racy as it got, and playing five-a-side footie in a hotel corridor with that other 70s family troupe the Jackson Five (the Jacksons won). This relentless sweetness and comparative lack of narrative tension does make the show drag at times in both acts, which at 74 and 79 minutes are probably over-long. But the momentum always picks up again thanks to flashback scenes featuring frankly adorable child singers Oliver Forde (Alan), Jack Sherran (Merrill), Louis Stow (Wayne), Lonon Johnson (Jay), Nicolas Teixeira (Donny) and Lyle Wren (Jimmy), plus infectiously foot-tapping renditions of the Osmond back catalogue by the adult cast. The whole show is a glorious opportunity to wallow in 70s nostalgia, from the flared jumpsuits and shirts with pointy collars to the television testcard set, all designed by Lucy Osborne.

The climax of the show is the family council after the Osmonds discover that they have lost all their money and gone deeply into debt. Director and co-writer Shaun Kerrison has ensured that this scene is one exception to the gentle whitewashing of the rest of the show: it is genuinely dramatic and hard-hitting. Afterwards the production coasts downhill towards reconciliation and reunion, ending with an audience bop-along to a medley of the greatest hits. But who was that dark-haired middle-aged bloke emerging from the wings to perform ‘Crazy Horses’ alongside Lodge? Readers, it was none other than Jay Osmond himself. He co-wrote the show, has followed it round the UK since it opened this year – and he performed live on stage at New Wimbledon Theatre. I’m star struck.

New Wimbledon Theatre, until 27 August

Image credit: Pamela Raith