FeaturedMusicalNorth WestReview

42 Balloons – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: John McRoberts

Book/Music/Lyrics: Jack Godfrey

Director: Ellie Coote

In 1982, Larry Walters, packed with a few pairs of glasses, some sandwiches, coke and a BB Gun, flew 16,000 feet above Los Angeles on a $100 armchair from Sears, aided by 42 weather balloons filled with helium. This epic feat, the result of a decade-long dream came at a considerable cost both financially and personally. Jack Godfrey’s new musical, 42 Balloons, looks at Walters’ story and ultimately asks the question – is chasing your dreams really worth the cost?

Producers and champions of new musical theatre, Andy and Wendy Barnes, have incubated and developed yet another sensational piece of new musical theatre. This husband-and-wife duo, have an incredible knack for finding and shaping some of the best pieces of new musical theatre writing in the country and here with 42 Balloons, one would argue they have found the best new musical in many years.

Godfrey has written a musical that has real heart and humour and has a unique voice that feels fresh and vibrant, his musicality roars with originality that isn’t afraid to be bold, daring and at times just outright hilarious. Director, Ellie Coote, has shaped the production with a vibrant stage language that is just as bold and fresh as Godfrey’s music. Coote gets rid of any unnecessary gimmicks that most pieces of musical theatre hang on and instead fiercely focuses on the storytelling and the relationships of the characters on stage – this understated delivery brings moments of pure electricity and breath-taking beauty, this is a career-defining moment. Alexzandra Sarmiento also brings high-energy choreography which blends brilliantly into the show’s aesthetic, helping to create a sense of storytelling totality.

But the creativity doesn’t just stop there, Andrezej Goulding has created some stunning video designs, which complement the material perfectly and brings Milla Clarke’s daring dish-like set design to life, a design that engulfs the cast and places them firmly inside a weather balloon.

The cast are phenomenal, from the non-stop energy of the hard-working ensemble through to the four leads, this is a cast that have gelled together in a way other shows could only dream of. Lejaun Sheppard as long-time friend Ron an amateur videographer gives plenty of strength and balance to the show. Gillian Hardie showcases her natural powerhouse vocals and comedic strength as Carol’s Mom but it is the performances of Evelyn Hoskins as Carol and Charlie McCullagh as Larry that cement this show firmly in place – this is a dynamic duo that sparks electricity, the pair not only wringing the pain of the characters relationships but also their unique eccentricities make the roles feel fully developed and helps us, the audience, connect with the story and the characters and a much deeper level.

Whilst 42 Balloons only has a short run at The Lowry, it can only be a matter of time before this sensational new musical continues its flight across the country and continues to soar.

Runs until 19 May 2024

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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