For a show to be still going and selling out theatres on tour it must have a lot to offer. Such is the case with Willy Russell’s musical theatre piece – Blood Brothers. The work celebrates its 29th anniversary this year and the current Bill Kenwright touring version is a fine example of top class theatrical entertainment.
The rich Liverpudlian tapestry of its story amuses, grabs one by the throat emotionally and pulls at the heart strings. Lyn Paul stars as Mrs Johnston mother of many kids and a fondness for catalogue shopping. Lyn Paul is a popular choice for the role and her performance is that of an actress/singer at the top of her game.
The story begins dramatically with a backdrop of Liverpool at night and the lights reflecting on the Mersey river. The two grown up twins Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Joel Benedict) being carried away dead. The narrator (Kristopher Harding) presides and speaks directly to the audience “So, did you ever hear the story of the Johnston twins, both alike as two new pins, of one womb born on the self same day, how one was kept and the other given away…” Thus unfolds the story beginning in the 1960’s.
The first half is fun and jolly with just a hint of the menace to come. The kids are all played by adults and Mickey Johnston eventually palls up with Eddie Lyons not realising that Eddie is actually his twin brother. Eddie has been secretly given away to the Lyons family by Mrs Johnston because she can’t afford another mouth to feed. Mrs Lyons is played in this production by Paula Tappenden. Mickey and Eddie become Blood Brothers until one day when the Lyons family move away and Mickey loses his best friend. Re-housing plans mean that not too soon after the Johnston tribe are re-located to the countryside to start a new life.
The second half finds Eddie and Mickey changing from their innocent childhood ways as they both turn for fourteen to eighteen. Later on Eddie has become a councillor and Mickey unemployed and in prison. They both fall in love with the same girl – Linda (Danielle Corlass) causing a tear in their friendship and leading to the tragic death of both brothers.
Although the show only had a short run original run in the West End in 1983 (subsequently going on tour) a revival in 1991 found Laurence Olivier Award winning Blood Brothers playing for more than 10,000 performances until it closed its West End run in November 2012. The show features some well loved songs such as Tell Me It’s Not True, Marilyn Monroe, My Child, Easy Terms, Shoes Upon The Table, Long Sunday Afternoon, Bright New Day, The Devil’s Got Your Number and I’m Not Saying A Word.
At Nottingham Theatre Royal the packed opening night house are utterly gripped by this vibrant tale told with great energy and obvious love by the talented multi-skilled ensemble. Whether the audience members are long term fans of this show or come to it totally afresh this sterling production seems as fresh as ever proving Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers (directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright) to be right at the top of popular musical theatre hits. If you can get a ticket go see it!