Some shows can tour the country and sell out theatres every night, the powerful story-telling and acting that comes from this Bill Kenwright production of Blood Brothers is certainly one of these types of shows. Playing to a packed out house at the Wolverhampton Grand, it was a clear sign that Blood Brothers is a musical that will live on forever.
For theatre-goers who are not familiar with the story, the compelling plot by Willy Russell first begins with Mrs Johnstone (Maureen Nolan) and her seven children, struggling to survive and with two more babies on the way; she is carefully tricked into handing one of her babies over to Mrs Lyons (Tracy Spencer). With the promise of an affluent life for the child and on the understanding she can see him every day, she hands over baby Eddie. The women manage to bring the twins up apart for the first seven years of their lives, until they meet out playing one day and immediately bond, declaring themselves ‘blood brothers'. Upon discovery of their chance meet, both mothers vow to keep the boys apart which proves difficult. Skipping forward a few years the boys meet again and things turn sour; their turbulent friendship ultimately leads to family tragedy.
Having played the role in the West End and on tour, Maureen Nolan is a powerful and emotional Mrs Johnstone. Her angelic vocals suit the role perfectly with emotion pouring out when she sings, translating into a terrific connection with the audience. The challenging role seems to affect Nolan as even during curtain call she is still crying, she rises from strength to strength. Her passion, along with the sensational story-telling of Russell, left most of the audience leaving the auditorium in tears too.
Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson are a tremendous pair of actors playing Mickey and Eddie, respectively. Their on stage chemistry adds a great comedic element to the show, which at time can seem dark; their humour lightens the load of the deep story. From playing young, playful and somewhat immature young boys to the final showdown between the two that allows them both, Jones in particular, to demonstrate the serious and harrowing sides of the characters. Olivia Sloyan as Linda is of great support to Jones, much like her character, she maintains great strength throughout the show.
With a stellar cast and a fascinating story, I can't wait to see Blood Brother again and again!
Blood Brothers plays at the Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday 4 May.