Blood Brothers (Tour – Sunderland Empire)

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is on the road again but still packs a punch at the Sunderland Empire.

Often when shows tour almost continuously, production values drop and stunt casting is brought in to put “bums on seats” but Willy Russell's Blood Brothers is one of those rare exceptions, where a show continues to pack a punch after many years on the road and in the West End.

Blood Brothers continues at the Sunderland Empire until 15 February.
Blood Brothers continues at the Sunderland Empire until 15 February.

In this tour we have Maureen Nolan, living and breathing the role of the downtrodden Mrs Johnstone, while most of the other leading players have all played their parts previously on tour, in London and in the case of Mark Hutchinson as Eddie, on Broadway as well and it shows. This is as faultless a production as you can get (excusing the sound balancing on the first night in Sunderland).

We start the evening with the dead bodies of Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie being carried off stage, then go back in time as we watch how Mrs Johnson has to give one of her twins away so the rest of the family could afford to eat, but fate plays a hand as the twins become friends, despite the best efforts of both mothers (Tracy Spencer plays Mrs. Lyons who is given one of the twins).

As one has all the advantages of a smart home and father with a good job, never knowing he had been given away, the other suffers the hard knocks of life, never knew his father, marries his girlfriend when she becomes pregnant and falls in to depression when he is made redundant.

Living on anti-depressants, he cannot cope without, he becomes unstable and we end in a police stand off where he holds a gun at his twin brother, never realising who he actually is. When the news is blurted out, it is too late to save either brother.
The songs carry the show forward and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments which turn on a sixpence to heartbreak.

Blood Brothers always gets a standing ovation and deservedly so. No matter how many times you see this show you can never tire of its songs or storylines. There are no special effects or high tech sets, just first-rate theatre at each performance, we can ask no more

Blood Brothers runs at the Sunderland Empire until 15 February and then continues its national tour.