Identical, the brand-new musical based on The Parent Trap, made for a particularly underwhelming night, saved only by the performances of the talented young cast.
The musical is based on Erich Käster’s novel Das doppelte Lottche (The Double Lottie), also known as Lottie and Lisa, in which two twins, separated at birth, reunite years later at a summer camp. After a rocky beginning, they soon become best friends and promptly switch places, fooling their parents by living as one another.
Having previously watched Disney’s hit 1998 film, The Parent Trap, starring Lindsey Lohan, my extremely high expectations for this musical were unfortunately not met. This wasn’t due to Lohan’s absence but rather an underdeveloped plot and script.
The story was implausible, and the sentimentality the show was aiming for lacked true depth. The first half of the musical was especially long. An hour and 20 minutes can seem like an eternity when you spend most of it waiting for something to actually happen. The second half picked up pace but no real obstacles stood in the way of the end resolution, meaning the finale wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it could have been.
The actors did well to perform with such a shallow script. The writing couldn’t capture the full potential of the romantic leads Lisalotte (Emily Tierney) and Johan (James Darch). Instead, two talented performers did their best to act in their two dimensional roles but arguably failed to convince both themselves and the audience.
The main villain, Miss Gerlach (Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson), is the fiancé of Johan. The character was at best confusing. Initially made to be a monster, she turned out to be just vain and disinterested in children. Her engagement to Johan ended without much resistance, and the family were left to live happily ever after.
The musical may have intended the portrayal to be through a child’s point of view, which would explain the development from monstrous and scary to complex and human. But the dismissal of villainy was just as questionable as the character’s accent. The show might have been much more interesting if Miss Gerlach embraced her darker side.
The best performances came from the young cast. The twins, Lisa and Lottie, were played by sisters (and real-life twins) Kyla and Nicole Fox – who were both adorable and impressive. Their sisterly bond transferred easily to stage. They received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience. ‘You’re my sister’ was the catchiest and cutest song of the show.
A stand-out performance came from Daisy Jeffcoate, who played a small role in the musical but stole each scene she was in. These kid’s talents were wasted on Identical. Any one of them would thrive in a more dynamic children’s musical such as Matilda or School of Rock. Their energy was infectious, and they all deserved more time on stage.
Miss Muthesisus (Louise Gold) was a classic comic relief character. Her catchphrase, “In my village they’d throw you down the well” received consistent laughs from the audience. She was perhaps the most authentic adult in the show; her gentle energy made her perfect to play the housekeeper.
Despite the disappointing story, Identical made for a pleasant evening. The lighting (Johanna Town) and sound design (Paul Gatehouse) were fresh and experimental; they added value to the show. The songs were enjoyable and vocals were consistently good.
As Identical is a children’s musical, I’m sure any child would get more out of it than I did. But be prepared for a very long viewing.
There’s no word yet on where the musical will be heading next, so keep your eyes on its website to find out if it will be coming to a city near you.
Written by Jessica Hamilton.
Note: This article was originally published shortly after press night but was one of several articles that were lost during a WordPress update.