Tuneful, splendidly set with amazing scenery and video projections, this new musical is really in its tryout stage and at the moment runs for far too long – nearly three hours including the interval. To be honest I don’t think it is quite ready for the world to review and those fouer stars are not for what it is but for what it could be provided the creatives get down to some hard work. As a Stiles and Drewe show it is, however, an event the world has duly turned up to review it and frankly after reading them done so more for what it could be than for what it is.
As for its interminable length, it is a Trevor Nunn production and Nunn shows tend to go on until the cows come home – this one certainly does. It is the story about the identical twins separated at birth who meet at summer camp and, after initial dislike, discover they are sisters at which point they embark on meeting their respective parent’s in the hope of bringing them back together. It was a hit as The Parent Trap for Hayley Mills in 1961 and later for Lindsay Lohan in 1989 with variations of place and plot. This version is closer to the original novel than either film both of which really only used the separated at birth story line. It is set in Vienna and Munich where the respective parents live – Dad, a Vienese composer with a temperamental ballerina for his lady love, has composed a ballet on Hansel and Gretel while Mum, a Munich journalist who likes climbing mountains, has rather neglected her daughter who does not like the great outdoors.
The joke is that while the two girls may look alike they are chalk and cheese and seeing how they adapt to the new parent – looks like they actually went to the wrong one in the first place – whose way of life they relish will eventually be a delight. Musicals with child stars are not unusual – Annie, Matilda, Billy Elliot – but to have twins at centre stage is certainly a challenge and at the matinee I saw whoever the girls were rose to the occasion very well indeed. The principals are fine – Emily Tierney as Mum is blonde and pretty and sympathetic, but James Darch as Dad, although a striking bloke, gets to play the wettest man ever – so wet he could cure the drought round Nottingham. Both can sing. Gabrielle Lewis-Dobson as the ballerina is lumbered with a rehash of the baroness from Sound of Music, which is to say the kids hate her and she is not quite as bad as she appears to be.
Scissors top cut, rewrites – the opening scenes in the summer camp are full of child actors and go on way beyond necessity – and the dropping of some unnecessary characters would help as would the tidying up of loose ends in the plot. Then one of these days it could come into the West End. But at the moment it is a work in progress and one really cannot pass a definitive judgement on it in its present state. The audience, which included lots of children greeted it with polite applause, laughed at the funny bits and marvelled at the scenery which really is out of this world but one did not feel anybody was heading into the sunshine having actually enjoyed it all that much. As it is the show looks marvellous, the songs – a dreadful opening number apart – are pleasing and it is full of promise which hopefully will be fulfilled.
Production photographs: Pamela Raith.
The twins: Kyla & Nicole Fox; Eden & Emma Patrick; Savannah & Sienna Robinson.
Lislotte: emily Tierbey.
Johan: James Darch.
Miss Gerlach: Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson.
Roza/ Miss Muthesiys: Louise Gold.
Dr Stroll: Michael Smith-Stewart.
Director: trevor Nunn.
Choreographer: Matt Cole.
Set Designer: Robert Jones.
Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman.
Video Designer; Douglas O’Connell.
Lighting Designer: jpohanna Town.
Sound Designer: Paule Gaitehouse.
Musical Supervisor: Caroline Humphries.
Orchestrator: Tom Curran.