For those few who haven’t seen Blood Brothers, the story concerns penniless housewife Mrs Johnstone whose twins are separated at birth to be brought up at opposite ends of the social scale. Fate and superstition intervenes and the boys, Mickey and Eddie, become childhood best friends. As their friendship progresses and they grow up, watched over by Mrs Johnstone, their different social backgrounds highlights the unlikelihood of their friendship, but it’s simply their love of the same girl that leads the story to its devastating climax.
Lyn Paul, ex-New Seekers singer, plays the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone, played over the years by a succession of fading pop stars, in this production. Ms Paul has been playing this role on and off since 1997 and could probably do it in her sleep but there is not a hint of tiredness or complacency in her performance. Granted, she barely attempts a scouse accent, but her acting is believable and her singing tremendous.
Narrating the show is Robbie Scotcher who, despite a difficult and isolated role, has stage presence in abundance and belts out his musical numbers better than any Narrator I have seen before. Of the twins Paul Davies has the least to do as privileged Eddie, but he proves able to hold his own in the acting stakes and has a pleasant singing voice. Most importantly he shares great chemistry with Sean Jones whose performance as Mickey, the poorer of the two, is brilliant. He is hilarious in his childhood scenes but captures beautifully the downtrodden and broken man Mickey becomes.
The rest of 14-strong cast excel themselves and there is not a weak link amongst them. They all work together and sound well rounded in the chorus numbers, helped in part to the excellent sound design by Ben Harrison which also enhances the sound of the small band who are strong under the leadership of musical director Kevin Towse.
The simple set designed by Andy Walmsley is highly effective and is a good reflection of the nature of Liverpool council housing in the 1970’s and the poverty endured by the tenants of these slum like terraces. It is also effectively lit by Mark Howett.
Responsibility for directing this production is shared between Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright and what a terrific job they have done. The production uses its set intricately and the action is slick and fast moving
The success of Blood Brothers may be in some part to this terrific production, but essentially it’s the material that is the productions strongest asset. Willy Russell, responsible for music, book and lyrics may, as he has been quoted, think the title Blood Brothers is not very good, but the rest of his work is top notch indeed. The script is consistently funny, but never in a way that detracts from the desperately sad nature of the story, the score is easy on the ear and contains several memorable tunes and the lyrics are smart, witty and not at all cheesy or contrived. Blood Brothers is a truly excellent musical that thoroughly deserves its long running status and equally deserves to continue for another twenty-one years. May it long continue enthralling audience worldwide.