If I became you, and you became me, and we became one another.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022

It’s unusual to give my overall impression in the first paragraph of a review, but the fact I went to see Identical twice in two days will let you know how much I enjoyed this brand new, feelgood musical. 

George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are probably the best song-writing team currently in Musical Theatre and with a book by Stuart Paterson and direction in the hands of Trevor Nunn, Identical was always going to exceed expectations.

Identical is based on Erich Kastner’s 1949 novel, Lisa and Lottie which was more famously adapted into a treasured movie of mine and many other childhoods in Disney’s The Parent Trap. However, set in Munich and Vienna, Identical follows Kastner’s original plot closely.

Of course, unlike the Disney films with Hayley Mills (1961) and Lindsey Lohan (1998), to have actors in a dual role on stage is near impossible. That is why production auditioned over 100 sets of identical twins (now three years ago, before Covid occurred) resulting in the successful trio in this premiere run at Nottingham and Salford.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022
Kyla and Nicole Fox – Friday August 12 2022.

Lisa and Lottie meet at summer camp (“She’s got your face!”) and realise they are twin sisters during the beautiful, tear-jerking You’re My Sister. Working out they were separated at birth, their parents taking one each, the girls swap places in an excellent number of punch the air proportions in If I Became You.

Once the girls return from camp, the changes are noticeable. Lottie has forgotten how to cook, gets in a fight at school, and becomes a terrible student, while Lisa will no longer eat her favourite food, becomes a model student and can now miraculously play the piano. However, no one suspects the girls are not who they claim to be, and the situation complicates when Father announces he is to marry a famous ballet dancer.

The first thing to notice is the wonderful set with video projections creating a magical stage, complete with rustling leaves, flying birds and later, moving cars in the city. So much credit, therefore, must go to Douglas O’Connell (Video Designer), Robert Jones (Set Design) and Johanna Town (Lighting). However, it is an all-round combination that makes Identical so good. Script, songs, musical direction (Caroline Humphries), choreography (Matt Cole) and especially the performances. And none more so than the leading twins.

I have already mentioned that me and my partner liked it so much, we returned for a second helping at the Saturday Matinee. Therefore, we saw two out of the three Lisas and Lotties: Friday was Kyla and Nicole Fox while Saturday saw the roles played by Eden and Emme Patrick. Not only could I not separate the twins on stage, but it was also likewise with their respective performances as both sets were excellent. Out of this world in every number. Obviously, I didn’t get to see the third (Savannah and Sienna Robinson) but having viewed a West End Live Performance on YouTube, I know they would have been of an equally high standard. 

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022 
Eden and Emme Patrick – Saturday 13 August 2022

But there were also top performances from the adults. Emily Tierney was magnificent as Lisalotte, especially during the title track, Identical while James Darch was equally so with Tierney during Fear Only Makes the Wolf Bigger and Safely Back Home with You.

Supporting well though were Louise Gold (Roza/Miss Muthesius) and Michael Smith-Stewart (Dr Strobl) who duetted in a lovely number, It’s Not for Me to Say. And there was David Bardsley (Franz) and Ellie Nunn (Miss Ulrike), the latter opening the show with In the Summer. A massive shout out, though, must go to Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson as Miss Gerlach. Her duet/argument with Lottie in What He Doesn’t Need was for me, the best number. And I kind of felt sorry for Miss Gerlach as unlike the films, her character isn’t as scheming, and she really doesn’t do an awful lot wrong. Still, a happy conclusion it will be and for that to happen, both parents must reunite, along with the sisters.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022
Savannah and Sienna Robinson – The twins I didn’t get to see.

Identical is a wonderful show of magical proportions which not only appeals to audiences of today, but also captures the spirit of musicals of old. Next to me on one performance was a man twenty or so years my senior (and that does not happen often these days). He laughed and enjoyed as much as the kids who filled a good percentage of the auditorium. And it is those kids who are so important.

Theatre in the 21st Century needs shows like Identical, as well as similar in School of Rock and Matilda. Children will go along with families and enjoy them so much, they will come back. And there you have your musical theatre audience for the next generation.

As I have said, this was an all-round smash for me, as you can tell by the fact this review is double the length of my usual. Therefore, credit to all adult ensemble members: Rico Bakker, Hannah Cauchi, Paige Fenlon, Rosie Glossop, Dominic Adam Griffin, Jordan Isaac and Rutendo Mushonga. And the young cast: Parrine Long, Kirsten Muzvuru, Poppy Pawson and Helena Middleton who were on show for me with Winter Jarrett Glasspool, Daisy Jeffcoat, Saffia Layla and Isabelle Larrey at other performances. And well done to the Nottingham Ensemble of children, plus Louby as Pepi the Dog.

I really hope Identical becomes the hit it deserves as in my opinion, it’s up there with Mary Poppins and Annie in terms of magical family entertainment.

The show has now finished at Nottingham but moves to The Lowry in Salford. Friday 19 August to Saturday 3 September 2022. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022


Antony N Britt