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Review: IDENTICAL, Nottingham Playhouse

Review: IDENTICAL, Nottingham Playhouse

The world premiere of the charming new musical based on The Parent Trap

Review: IDENTICAL, Nottingham Playhouse From Erich Kästner's classic 1949 novel, to the 1961 movie starring Hayley Mills and the 1998 remake featuring Lindsay Lohan, The Parent Trap has been delighting families for generations. Its newest incarnation comes in the form of this charming new musical, produced by Kenny Wax and directed by Trevor Nunn.

The plot follows Lottie and Lisa, 10-year-old identical twins who have been raised apart since their parents' divorce. They discover each others' existence after accidentally meeting for the first time at summer camp, and hatch an audacious plan to switch places. It's a sweet story, if you can get past the extremely dubious custody arrangement, and there is plenty of scope for comedy, romance and heartfelt family reunions.

This adaptation is much closer to the novel than the movies, keeping not only the characters' original names but also Kästner's setting of Austria in 1950. We're treated to stunning sets by Robert Jones, and video design by Douglas O'Connell, which together transport us smoothly from the rolling hills and lakes of summer camp to the imposing architecture of Munich, where Lisa meets her mother for the first time, and the street cafes, opera houses and hotels of Vienna, where Lottie goes to live with her father.

Lisa and Lottie are played by three sets of real-life twins, including Eden and Emme Patrick, who performed on press night. Instantly likable and filled with mischief, they capture the twins' different personalities brilliantly and are completely believable in their journey from strangers to sisters. Their harmonies on "You're My Sister", a sweet early ballad of discovery and wonder, are enough to give the audience goosebumps.

The twins' mother, Lisalotte, is played with spirit by Emily Tierney, whose voice is well suited to her character's wistful ballads. James Darch is affable as the father, Johan, and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson is striking as Johan's fiancé Irene, an ambitious ballerina who is clearly unused to children. She gets the best song in the show, the deliciously dark and creepily staged "Take One or the Other", which occurs in Lottie's nightmares and features Irene as an evil witch forcing the parents to divide up the children by any means necessary.

The show does feel as though there is room for improvement. The songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are all pleasant, with the bittersweet "We Were Young" being another highlight, but on the whole they have a tendency to sound samey, and the ensemble numbers aren't helped by the slightly muddy sound design.

Stuart Paterson's book has some lovely moments, particularly when each twin connects with their previously unknown parents, and there are plenty of laughs to be had as the twins try to keep their deception a secret. However, it doesn't fully explore the parents' decision to separate the girls, and Lisalotte and Johan get very little time together on stage, which feels like a letdown after over two hours of buildup.

Although there are some tweaks needed, this is a heartwarming show with huge potential to be a family favourite. There's a sweet, wholesome quality to the production, which feels refreshing, and the sparkling performances, especially from the twins, will charm audiences of all ages.

Identical at Nottingham Playhouse until 14 August, then transfers to The Lowry

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

From This Author - Laura Lott

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