The Finellis Musical tells the story of Tony Finelli, freshly released after 15 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit in an effort to protect his family. He returns to his family home to find the loving family he left has moved forward without him and his wife in particular doesn't want anything to do with him. Tony attempts to rebuild his life, reconnect with his family, and help take down the Mafia boss who put him in prison in the first place. 

Altogether far too long and over-indulgent, this show is in desperate need of edits in all areas and doesn't seem to know what it's trying to be. The script is all over the place, feels dated and is filled with jokes that simply do not land - this isn't helped by a seeming lack of direction and poor pacing throughout. 

The narrative is convoluted and makes little sense. It tries to address more serious and deep topics (such as dementia and a terrifying assault) but brushes over them after one song, though the refreshingly pro-trans storyline is welcome (but, as with most of the scenes, doesn't add anything to the overall plot). We are also faced with some confusingly mixed messages; Lola is perfect just as she is, but the script is full of fat-shaming jokes.

None of the characters have any depth - the daughters are the closest to having meaningful character arcs, but both of them slide in and out of love and mistrust of their father in a way that evokes whiplash. 
The songs themselves are far too many, rarely do anything to advance the plot, and feel completely incongruent with one another - nothing here flows with any consistency. Many of the songs themselves go on for too long, and when one fun country number (which is actually relevant to the story) finds its way in, it's cut too short! 

Overall, the production requires more collaboration and reworking to make it suitable for the stage. 
The technical aspects of this show don't do much to improve the experience. The stage feels constantly cluttered (remarkable, given the minimal set and not especially small playing space); the poor sound balancing means we regularly have no idea what characters are saying/singing about; and the lighting is serviceable, but doesn't feel in any way deliberate. However, it is the screen at the back of the stage that is the greatest distraction. It attempts to serve as a set replacement, providing backdrops as we are whisked from scene to scene, but it ultimately feels cold and removed (perhaps it would feel more in-keeping with the style of the show if it were to reflect the cartoon of the original animations that randomly pop up every so often without rhyme or reason). The graphics that accompany songs feel cheap and lazy, and the show would be better served without them at all. 

The cast itself comprises of a range of talents, and it is difficult to tell if some performers struggle with their own ability or simply the material/direction offered. 

While there's no question that Mark Janicello has a stunning voice, his operatic style feels at odds with the other more traditional musical theatre performances around him.

Putting criticisms aside for a moment, Anna María manages to shine throughout as Lola Finelli - an incredibly talented performer, she makes the material work for her and never once gives less than 100%. 

Perhaps an enjoyable evening for hardcore fans of its other iterations, The Finellis Musical runs at Wonderville until 16th June.

Review: Penny Lane