Book: Stuart Paterson
Music: George Styles
Lyrics: Anthony Drew
Director: Trevor Nunn
Landing in Salford for the next few weeks is Identical, the musical adaptation of Erich Kästner’s much-loved book The Parent Trap. Most people will be familiar with the story mainly due to Disney’s two film adaptations the first starring Hayley Mills and the latter starring a young Lindsay Lohan. This musical version stays much closer to the book than its filmic counterparts.
Following a nationwide search and with over 100 Identical twins being auditioned three successful sets of girls, landed the lead roles of Lisa and Lottie (at Salford’s press night Kyla and Nicole Fox take centre stage) a pair of twins who are separated as toddlers, one taken to live with mother Lisalotte (Emily Tierney) a newspaper journalist in Munich and the other taken to live with composer and orchestra conductor Johan (James Darch) in Vienna. Growing up unaware of the other’s existence, a chance meeting at the same summer camp, finds the twins hatch a plan to swap lives so they can live and spend time with their parents who they do not know.
Musical duo George Stiles and Anthony Drew have been given the epic task alongside adaptor Stuart Paterson to turn the book into a family musical and overall, this is a very successful partnership – however one needs to question the decision to allow the show to have a near three-hour long running time. Considering the show is going to bring in plenty of younger audiences the production could easily find places to cut down songs, or even trim certain scenes out of the show without it affecting the overall story arc or even emotional content – that decision surely needs to land firmly in Director Trevor Nunn’s hands – a creative who regularly falls down on run times of his productions and it seems Identical has fallen victim of this habit too.
It must be said that, this is the only real criticism of the show. What we are given is an excellent put together production that has all the elements of a more classical structured piece of musical theatre, excellent songs, strong ensemble, and perhaps one of the strongest books seen in a piece of Musical Theatre in recent times.
Tierney is delightful as the young mum Lisalotte, and is matched perfectly alongside Darch as Johan. Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson provides a strong performance as Johan’s love interest Miss Gerlach. Louise Gold as Roza and Michael Smith-Stewart as Dr Strobel bring a nice warm touch to a loving subplot. A special mention to Parrine Long who holds the stage perfectly as the young bully. But this is a show that really does rest on the central performances – a massive task to undertake especially when only 11 years old. Thankfully Kyla and Nicole do a wonderful job. They are full of cheeky charisma and bring bags of energy and enthusiasm to the roles. One is excited to see what this talented pair go on to do next.
There is another stand-out performance of the show and that is Robert Jones’ set design – here we have ultra-high-resolution screens which produce digital moving backdrops designed by Douglas O’Connell. These flow seamlessly between scenes and really help bring another exciting dimension to the production.
Identical is a delightful and whimsical production that will delight audiences young and old and is more than worth the ticket price alone for the set design and central performances from a set of amazing young performers.
Runs until 3 September 2022