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Identical

Book by Stuart Paterson, based on the novel Das Doppelte Lottchen by Erich Kästner

Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe

Produced by Kenny Wax Ltd

Lowry, Salford

August 19-September 3, 2022; 2hr 50min inc 20min interval


James Darch, Emily Tierney and twins Emme and Eden Patrick in Identical at the Lowry. All pics: Pamela Raith Photography
Kyla and Nicole Fox in Identical at the Lowry. Other twins might appear at other Salford performances. All pics: Pamela Raith Photography

It is the 1960s and I am going to see my favourite film, The Parent Trap, starring Hayley Mills as identical twins separated at birth. I love it so much that, together with my little group of friends, I have turned it into our own play to perform for our families. I still have the photos.

It is the 1990s and I am going with my daughter and her friends to see the new film version, starring Lindsay Lohan. They love it so much that they sing from the soundtrack at the top of their voices in the car all the way home.

Now it is the 2020s and I am a grandmother (just), going to the Lowry to see Identical, a musical based more closely on the original source for The Parent Trap, the novel Das Doppelte Lottchen, written in 1949 by Erich Kästner. Will new generations love this take just as much?

The basis of the plot is that after the twins are born the mother and father divorce, taking one baby each. Composer/conductor father Johan then lives in Vienna while mother Liselotte works as a journalist in Munich. Ten years later the young sisters, Lise and Lottie, meet by chance at summer camp and decide to switch places secretly to get to know their missing parent - with all the complications this brings.

James Darch as Johan and Emily Tierney as Liselotte play and sing their parts well although the characters don't have much depth. This, however, is the nature of the beast. Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson plays Johan's new love interest, the scheming prima ballerina Miss Gerlach, and demonstrates her strengths – in particular in her singing and pointe work. There is good support from Louise Gold as Rosa and Michael Smith-Stewart as Dr Strobl, as well as the rest of the cast, including a number of youngsters.

But the show belongs to the twins. After a long search, three sets were cast to share the roles of Lisa and Lottie. On the night I saw the show, Kyla and Nicole Fox (main picture) were cute, confident and highly talented – and received a deserved standing ovation.

Direction is highly accomplished, as one would expect from the legendary Trevor Nunn. His work melds seamlessly with the outstanding and numerous set designs and video backdrops (Robert Jones and Douglas O'Connell). At one point, for example, flats of Munich buildings merge with a period video of vehicles moving along the street. A character walks purposefully across the stage, perhaps on their way to the office. You feel as if you are there.

The music, whilst not as catchy as that in the films, is enjoyable, and the lyrics are clever. There are ballet scenes, a wicked witch, pretty costumes, and a real dog.

So while adults may find some parts a bit twee and over-sentimental (especially at the end) do new generations love this just as much as I did, all those years ago?

I asked the 12-year-old girl sitting next to me what she thought. "Fantastic" she said. So that's a yes then.

Info and tickets here