Latest Review – Identical [The Lowry, Salford Quays]


The Lowry, Salford Quays

Until Saturday 3rd September 2022

It is always exciting to hear about the world premiere of a brand new British musical, and particularly exciting when that new British musical proves to be as uplifting and undeniably brilliant as Identical.

Trevor Nunn’s World Premiere production was originally intended to open in summer 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic, eventually opening at Nottingham Playhouse (who have produced alongside the prolific Kenny Wax Ltd.) last month before transferring to The Lowry, where it now runs until 3rd September.

An adaptation of Erich Kästner’s 1949 novel Lisa and Lottie, which later served as the basis for Disney’s The Parent Trap – originally released in 1961 and remade in 1998 – Identical is the story of twin girls, headstrong Lisa from Vienna and reserved Lottie from Munich, unknowingly separated at birth and reunited by chance at an Alpine summer camp ten years later.

Despite initial hostility, things quickly change when the girls realise they share a birthday, were born in the same hospital … and, have the same face (…the nerve!). With both keen to meet their mysterious other parent, the girls concoct a devious plan to swap lives and experience how the other half lives. What could go wrong?!

So, when summer camp ends, Lisa goes to Munich with their mother, Lisalotte, a warm and kindly writer who loves to spend time with her daughter, and Lottie goes to Vienna with their workaholic father, Johan, a classical composer and conductor who only seems to care about his music.

Trevor Nunn’s expertly staged production looks and sounds exquisite, and the design work is incredibly effective throughout. Stuart Paterson’s adapted book is superb and perfectly captures the charm and mischief of the source novel.

The production makes excellent use of Rob Jones’ set design, which is really brought to life courtesy of the jaw-droppingly immersive video projections by video and projection designer Douglas O’Connell, which seamlessly whisks us from the arresting beauty of the lakeside summer camp, to the baroque elegance of Johan’s Vienna apartment, the busy streets of Munich, the dramatic stage of the Vienna opera house, a countryside hike up a mountain, and back again.

Musically, the show contains some of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s most impressive work, which is really saying something when you look at the quality of their CV. The music is glorious, not only the songbook but the underscoring and incidental music, and the lyrics are clever, brilliantly witty and often very poignant, as you would expect from Stiles and Drewe.

There are many standout numbers in the show but the utterly thrilling and totally unexpected Take One Or The Other, introduced during a dramatically dark nightmare sequence, is perhaps the most enthralling and impressive of the lot.

The roles of Lisa and Lottie are huge – the show runs just shy of 3 hours, including an interval – and County Armagh twins Kyla and Nicole Fox are absolutely brilliant and, unsurprisingly, work incredibly well together, carrying much of the show. They share the roles with fellow twins Eden & Esme Patrick and Savannah & Sienna Robinson throughout the run.

The adult cast is just as impressive with fine work from Emily Tierney as Lisalotte (her performances of We Were Young and Identical are incredibly touching), James Darch as Johan, and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson as ballerina Miss Gerlach, Johan’s new love interest, who particularly shines in the haunting Hansel and Gretel ballet sequence – special mention to choreographer Matt Cole! – as well as the vastly experienced Louise Gold as Johan’s housekeeper Roza, and Michael Smith Stewart as Dr. Strobl. Ellie Nunn is also great fun as summer camp leader, Miss Ulrike.

It is worth noting that Identical is very much a traditional adaptation of Kästner’s original novel, and not a screen to stage adaptation of The Parent Trap, so Lindsay Lohan fans, keep that in mind! The only slight criticism is the running time. At just under three hours, including an interval, it does feel a little long, and there are certain sequences that could be tightened up a bit. Other than that, it is difficult to find fault with the show.

We are still awaiting an announcement as to future plans for the show, but we can almost certainly expect an extended tour at some point and hopefully a much-deserved West End transfer sometime soon. Until then, get yourself to Salford Quays and do not miss this wonderful and joyous new musical while you can!

Running Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 3rd September 2022.

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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