Home » London Theatre Reviews » Blood Brothers at Theatre Royal Brighton 2023 | Review

Blood Brothers at Theatre Royal Brighton 2023 | Review

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is a theatrical phenomenon: originally written in 1981 and performed as a school play in Liverpool, by 1983 it had reached London where it had a brief run before being revived in 1991, playing over 10,000 performances and becoming the West End’s third longest running show, before closing in 2012, and being frequently revived since.

Timothy Lucas as Sammy (left), Sean Jones as Mickey (right). Credit Jack Merriman Photography.
Timothy Lucas as Sammy (left), Sean Jones as Mickey (right). Credit Jack Merriman Photography.

The captivating, simply-told tale of twins separated at birth, then reunited in a bizarre twist of fate has become a “must-see” for many of its followers: at the first night at Theatre Royal Brighton an audience member behind me had seen it 81 times, and everyone in the vicinity had seen it many more times than once! I last saw it when Susan Maughan (Bobby’s Girl) played Mrs Johnston, more than twenty years ago…

This latest tour benefits from having a superb cast throughout. Mrs Johnston, she who sells one of her newly born twin boys, is magnificently portrayed by Niki Colwell Evans. She gets so much depth and pathos into the role without ever becoming a caricature, especially at the denouement, that you can feel the whole audience rooting for her. She also possesses a full-blooded mezzo singing voice which is well able to belt out those numbers that need it. A performance to remember.

The narrator, onstage for much of the time, is powerfully sung, spoken and acted by Danny Whitehead, clearly relishing Russell’s use of the English language. Blood brothers Mickey and Eddie are played by Sean Jones and Joe Sleight, both being very successful in ageing from seven years old to adulthood during the show, and possessing great energy and humour, as well as, when needed, the angst which makes the whole show believable.

Mrs Lyons, who pays good money to buy Eddie, is suitably neurotic in the capable hands of Sarah Jane Buckley and Linda, Mickey’s girlfriend, by Gemma Brodrick, also being very convincing in ageing from childhood to adult.

This is a show that has aged well, not seeming at all dated, even though this is to all intents the same production that was seen in 1991. In fact, the audience would probably revolt if offered a “new” production. It looks anything but tired. The original direction by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright is still used and it works! The set has been cleverly designed by Andy Walmsley, effective lighting is by Nick Richings and musical direction of the excellent six-piece band is by Matt Malone.

On purpose, I invited someone to join me who had never heard of the show (yes, there are some!), mainly because she is American and from Arkansas, where I do not think Blood Brothers has yet reached! She needed some persuading to attend, thinking that it would be far too “British” and that many references such as “living on the never-never” would go over her head, but she sat completely entranced and enthralled for the entire time, becoming, as we all were, fully involved in the characters and storyline. This is one of the great musicals of all time and, in its present revival, superb! I believe that there are very few seats left for the rest of the run at Brighton – but if you are unlucky enough not to get a ticket, you can see it at Bill Kenwright’s “own” theatre at Windsor next week! If you know the show, you will not need any encouragement from me to see it again, if you do not know the show, you are in for a treat – and will want to see it again!!!

Very highly recommended!!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

The superb score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.

Few musicals have received quite such acclaim as the multi-award-winning Blood Brothers, which, having opened in 1988 to tremendous acclaim, continues to enjoy standing ovations at almost every devastating performance. In the USA it has had a record-breaking run, a hugely successful coast to coast tour and was nominated for 7 Tony Awards.

Blood Brothers is at Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday 3rd October, 2023 to Saturday 7th October, 2023.

View all shows booking now at Theatre Royal Brighton.

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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