Musical theatre is often praised for providing Utopian spectacles that have the power to divert, entertain and spellbind. Lavish sets, extravagant lighting rigs and awe-inspiring costumes all contribute towards the success of most mainstream musicals. Yet, take Willy Russell’s renowned work, Blood Brothers, strip it of any of the above factors and you are still guaranteed something beyond amazing.
In one of the greatest nature vs nurture storylines of all time, you watch as two twins are separated at birth, meeting coincidentally as young children and growing up together unaware of each other’s true identity. After a series of unfortunate encounters and superstitions, the boys are ultimately led to a tragic and untimely fate.
Simon Williams as Eddie Lyons and Sean Jones as Mickey Johnstone captivate you from beginning to end, as they portray perfectly the outcome of children raised on either end of the social spectrum. Independently they both have the rare power of hitting your every emotion. Together, they leave you speechless. As sweets become ciggies, toys transform into weapons and innocent play tragically turns into a devastating reality, the protagonists remain believable, becoming so enraptured in their parts that even the most hard-hearted audience member cannot fail to be moved.
Mrs Johnstone, a character previously played by accomplished actresses and singers including Petula Clark and Barbara Dickson, is taken on by New Seekers star, Lyn Paul. Returning to the role (having starred in the London production numerous times and on tour), Paul is as strong as ever, delivering songs such as "Bright New Day" and ‘Tell Me It’s Not True" with a passion that will indisputably give you goosebumps.
If you have watched any show in prior years, there is always a danger of finding fault if something that amazed you formerly is executed differently. In this instance, the narrator (Robbie Scotcher) isn’t as strong vocally or physically as I have seen before and Liverpudlian accents could, on the whole, do to be turned up a notch.
Furthermore, Mrs Lyon’s descent into madness could progress slower, in order to make Paula Tappenden’s scenes in the second half even more vivid. However, all can be dismissed, this tour bringing its own successes, a stunning Linda (Anna Sambrooks) and an obviously devoted director, Bill Kernwright.
So, ‘have you heard the story of the Johnstone twins?’ If not, you have now. Get ready to catch the Blood Brothers bug and be infected by a production powerful enough to take your breath away.