There’s a reason why Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers has been running on and off, all over the country, since 1983. I first saw this show in 2011 at the Phoenix Theatre, and enjoyed it as a 13 year old. I thought it was funny and emotional. As an 18 year old, I now see more than that. I see a class divide, a nature-nurture debate, a story about superstition. And I am certain that in 20, 40, 60 years time I’ll see something more. This was proven by the range of ages in the audience; from school groups, possibly experiencing live theatre for the first time, to those who probably have fading memories of the show’s premiere performance.
There’s also a reason why Lyn Paul has had an on/off relationship with this show since 1997. Described as the ‘definitive Mrs Johnstone’, she has a title to live up to. And oh how she deserves that title. Never have I felt such a connection, from a stage show, with a mother who loves her children. Lyn didn’t need to be dramatic or exaggerated, she just had to be. Owning that stage, not by taking the spotlight, but giving to others; Lyn played the centre-point of a world falling apart around her. She kept a distance from the audience; she beautifully narrated through the life of Marilyn Monroe, but rather than exposing herself to us, she drew us in. So, when the signature final tableau was set and she fell to her knees, we all came crashing to tears with her. Her performance has made me realise that it’s not the acting and singing that make that part: it’s the ability to love your children to a peak that cannot be artificially moulded; it has to be real. Each and every song was delivered with a sense of serenity, highlighting the delicateness of the score; Paul provided power for ‘Bright New Day’, playfulness for ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and sheer heartfelt emotion for ‘Light Romance’.
One of the many challenges of Blood Brothers is the significant change of character that comes with age. Sean Jones (playing Mickey) nailed this transformation. With Mickey’s idiosyncrasies set in the first act, Sean carefully translated these actions through the years, allowing us to see the same character when he’s all grown up. Joel Benedict (playing Eddie) captured the traits of a 7 year old boy from an upper-middle class society, and as he grew, these grew with him. Benedict created a beautifully tragic vulnerability, which potentially triggers Eddie’s death. Danielle Corlass (as Linda) gave an equally impressive performance. The whole ensemble were superb. Peter Washington, portraying Sammy, was perhaps the most convincing with his mannerisms; it’s the skill of being child-like, as opposed to childish, which this cast has mastered.
The relationships within the story were perfectly displayed making the entire production an absolute joy to experience. As always with this show, the second act was stronger than the first, but I find that this change in pace is what brings me to tears at the shows climax. An excellent production.
Review by Joseph Winer
Written by Willy Russell, the legendary Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences.
Few musicals have received quite such acclaim as the multi-award winning Blood Brothers. Bill Kenwright’s production surpassed 10,000 performances in London’s West End, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone. It has been affectionately christened the ‘Standing Ovation Musical’, as inevitably it “brings the audience cheering to its feet and roaring its approval” (The Daily Mail).
Lyn Paul returns to the iconic role she has played many times in the West End, in fact she was the show’s final Mrs Johnstone when it closed at The Phoenix Theatre in 2012. Lyn also starred in Bill Kenwright’s tour of Cabaret with Will Young in 2013 and rose to fame as a member of the pop group New Seekers whose numerous number one hits include ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ which sold over 20 million copies.
The superb score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.