• Search
  • Lost Password?
42 Balloons Pamela Raith Photography
42 Balloons Pamela Raith Photography

42 Balloons: Review

Home » Reviews » 42 Balloons: Review

The phenomenal success of Six the Musical tells us its producers Andy and Wendy Barnes have a keen eye for spotting the next big thing. So, their backing of quirky new musical, 42 Balloons, from young writer-composer, Jack Godfrey comes with dizzying expectations.

There are some similarities in that both musicals are by bright, fresh talent; both are sung all the way through like a pop-opera; both have an on-stage band and vibrant energy that fills the stage, negating the need for huge sets, and both are based on true stories. However, whereas with Six everyone knows the fate of Henry VIII’s wives, few, if any of the audience will be familiar with Larry Walters and his 42 Balloons.

42 Balloons Pamela Raith Photography
42 Balloons Pamela Raith Photography

In 1982 Larry set out to make a long-standing dream come true by creating a flying machine made from a garden chair and 42 helium-filled weather balloons and floating 16000 ft above Los Angeles. If you’re thinking this sounds like the Disney Pixar film Up, there are some similarities. Only this story, as this witty musical reminds us in its opening prologue: “actually happened – you can look it up after the show”.

Why Larry couldn’t just use Delta to fly we’ll never know but his ridiculous dream becomes all consuming until it carries away not just Larry but all those around him too.
The first act sees Larry convince his friend, Ron; girlfriend, Carol, and her sceptical mum, who comically sings of him being a loser, to support his crazy dream, and with their help he manages to achieve what at first seemed impossible. Come the interval we are all high on 80s guitar anthems, power ballads and dreams come true. This is where the fictional story would leave us, dancing home on an anything is possible, happy every after. But is that the truth?

The second act has a somewhat bumpy descent as the musical ventures into complex territories of the cost of chasing a dream, both emotional and financial. What happens when we achieve what we thought we always wanted? And can we ever truly understand the sacrifices others might make to help us get there?

Godfrey wraps all of this up in a tight musical capsule that cleverly pokes fun at stage conventions such as its ‘maths montage’ with knowing self-awareness while genuinely holding onto a sparkle of hope.

42 Balloons Pamela Raith Photography
42 Balloons Pamela Raith Photography

Charlie McCullagh and Evelyn Hoskins bring everyday humour and warmth to the emotional rollercoaster of Larry and Carol’s lives. They lead a talented cast whose energy fizzes around Milla Clarke’s simple, but effective steel balloon set.

In a cartoon-style narrative the ensemble sing: “What makes a man want to fly in a lawn chair?” At the end I’m still not sure I know, but it’s a tune that spins in my head all the way home, a sure sign 42 Balloons could be another soaring success.


The World premiere of 42 Balloons is at The Lowry, Salford from 18 April to 19 May 2024.

Avatar photo
Written by
Carmel Thomason
View all articles
Leave a reply

Avatar photo Written by Carmel Thomason