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REVIEW | 42 Balloons, at The Lowry Theatre

AD | Tickets was gifted in exchange of an honest review

TW - References to violence, relationships, mild offensive language, mental health issues and death through suicide and Flashing lights.


Photo credit: Pamela Raith
 

A musical about balloons…yes you read it correctly BALLOONS! 


42 Balloons is currently having its premiere in a fully staged production at The Lowry Theatre, previously the new musical first had a semi-staged concert back in November 2022. The show takes on the extraordinary true story of ‘Larry Walters’ when in 1982 where on the 2nd of July Larry and his dream of flying 16,000 feet in the air in a lawn chair became reality. 


Written by Jack Godfrey, Directed by Ellie Coote and Choreography by Alexzandra Sarmiento


42 Balloons runs for 2 hours and 15 minutes including an interval. Like always, my reviews are 100% honest and I will always justify my ratings, thoughts and feelings, always giving constructive feedback, and my opinions are my own.


Writer Jack Godfrey is an extraordinary talent. Godfrey’s 80’s inspired score is full of up-beat and fun numbers with the lyrics being so catchy, and I mean that, you’ll be singing “42 balloons and lawn chair” over and over again in your head, trust me. The shows beautiful ballads such as ‘Helium’ and duets ‘Something as Crazy as this’ which lyrically are marvellously-stunning. I feel the way that Godfrey decided to write the show really helps the storytelling and feels like the audience is literally being told an unbelievable true story which really pushes and drives the story forward and is true brilliance throughout which I actually liked. Godfrey’s musicality and lyrics are admired. Godfrey’s book is great, as well as being a heartfelt show about accomplishing dreams Godfrey injects funny moments that have the audience laughing out loud. Godfrey writes act 1 which builds the relationships of characters and builds up the preparation of ‘take off’ with the act 1 ending ‘Bang’ had me very much hooked, while the act 2 opener is essentially mid flight and the reaction of people down on the ground, we see the financial, relationships and also the personal effects the flight had. Jack Godfrey makes the story of Larry Walters’ flight so much more than just a musical about balloons. 


Ellie Coote directs the show. Coote cleverly directs the show by effectively using the set with cast members sliding/running down the slopped like set, which wasn’t as chaotic as you would think, when you first read the words ‘sliding and running down’, but to me what it actually did was add a playful side to the show and actually added a little more fun to the show and it didn’t feel as forced as it could have been. The show's directional style shone through, with the direction having energy that keeps you engaged, while also having to try to push the relationship between Carol and Larry played by (Evelyn Hoskin and Charlie McCullagh) which is clearly shown and plays out really well. Coote’s direction to me is something new and refreshing and feels suited to the show's story and time. I wouldn’t say it’s complex but it’s the effectiveness in the end and how to ensure the story was understood, and it did just that. With Ellie Coote directing the cast to success through a truly out of this world story. 


 

Photo credit: Pamela Raith
 

The cast is made up of 12 cast members who all work effortlessly to perform the show. 


Evelyn Hoskins, plays Carol, Hoskins is tremendous in the delivery of Carol. Hoskins gives a beautiful performance which really gets you and helps you to sympathise with the character, Hoskins skillfully lands excellent characterisation between Charlie McCullagh and delivers stellar vocals that you will absolutely love, Evelyn Hoskins is such an engaging talent to watch. 


Charlie McCullagh, plays the man himself ‘Larry Walters’, McCullagh makes you feel so engaged in the story of Larry. McCullagh's delivery makes it clear for you to understand why Larry wants to do what he did and the determination within him to make it happen, McCullagh’s acting through song really shows skill and is great to see, Charlie McCullagh’s performance is nothing short of brilliance. 


Lejaun Sheppard plays Ron who is Larry's friend. Sheppard’s character comes across as someone who really wants to make Larry's dream a reality and it shows and shines throughout the performance. How Sheppard delivers this, through Ron, is by bringing calmness, where needed, to help Larry’s dream become a reality.  Doing this he is the one that captures the monumental moment by filming the ‘ups and downs’ of the flight. Sheppard makes you see and believe that Ron is a true friend. Lejaun Sheppard is excellent and delivers pleasing vocals. 


Choreographer, Alexzandra Sarmiento, throughout the show the choreography is brought to life from the sliding and running creating visual and engaging fun on stage, to the funky 80’s style movements that capture the vibe of the show.   


The technical side of the show enhances the style of the 80’s but also brings in modern theatre technology, such as filming on stage, as we are now seeing in various other productions at the moment. The filming on stage really helps capture and enhance the emotions of the characters. Overall it feels like modern day technology colliding with retro 80’s theme, all brought together by Andrzej Goulding


So in the words of the show ‘why did you go see a musical about balloons’ I hear you ask. Well… I feel that to me, the show feels different in a good way and I love that it feels quite current in giving a message of never give up on your dreams as they can become a reality. 


42 Balloons is an unbelievable new musical that floats into your heart

★★★★


42 Balloons Plays at The Lowry Theatre until Sunday 19th of May


 

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

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