Book, Music and Lyrics: Willy Russell
Producer: Bill Kenwright, Bob Tomson
Musical Supervisor: Rod Edwards
Reviewer: Gina Skillings
The Public Reviews Rating:
Blood Brothers is a story, set in Liverpool, of twin brothers Mickey (Sean Jones) and Edward (Jorden Bird). The brothers were separated at birth, with one being given to a childless couple, in secret to live a charmed life and one staying with his single mother and numerous siblings, constantly struggling to get along in life. A pact is made between the mothers that the twins should never know the other exists.
However, fate continues to bring them together as friends and as children they indulge in becoming ‘Blood Brothers’, but as they grow up the divisions between the privileged life of Edward and Mickey’s poverty-stricken existence become increasingly apparent. As they try to conquer their social divisions, their mother’s attempts to keep them apart, and their secret love for the same girl, their worlds start to unravel and climax in a tragedy which will ultimately expose their true identities.
Blood Brothers opened in 1983 to critical acclaim. Written by Willy Russell, it won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical and Best Actress in its first year. After a 5 year break it was revived in London in 1988 where it remains today, becoming one of the longest standing musicals on the West End.
With an exceptionally strong cast, you could be fooled into thinking you were watching this on any West End or Broadway stage. Marti Pellow and Niki Evans in the roles of the narrator and the twin’s mother, Mrs Johnstone, are an inimitable pair, with not a note or foot out of place and exceedingly strong vocal performances. High praise indeed must go to Bird and Jones, they transport you to a world where, as children, no class divide matters, lulling the audience into a cosy sense of security that makes the audience believe it will all be ok, even though you know for sure it won’t. Their portrayal of the brothers, from the highly amusing childhood scenes of the first act into the dark and troubling second half are faultless.
The score is not filled with numerous big numbers; constant reprises of the same few songs can start to grate by the middle of the second act (the name Marilyn Monroe will become one you don’t want to hear for a good while after). However, the set and production of this performance at The Mayflower is as good as any you will encounter in a non touring theatre production, in some cases better.
A story that is nearly 30 years old is still surprisingly relevant today. Not a musical in the traditional sense of ‘one for all the family’ this is definitely not for the children. The language is strong in parts and the finale will not leave you with a feel good factor, but you will leave with a teary eye and with the knowledge that you have seen something quite special.
Runs until 22nd September 2012