Being a massive fan of this musical and having seen it many times before, I knew what to expect when going to St Helens Theatre Royal tonight to welcome another serving of ‘Blood Brothers’. However, what I had forgotten was that even when you know what’s going to happen and there are no surprises, this show is so emotive that it will feel like you are seeing it for the very first time again.
The very famous storyline of the Johnston twins who were separated at birth and brought up in polar opposite environments is just as fascinating as when it was first written. It brings forward modern day themes of social class, morals and mental health within a historic story that stands the test of time 30 years later.
The cast is small but mighty and there were no weak links as these professionals took the audience on a powerful journey, made up of a number of absorbing and compelling individual journeys. Mrs Johnston played by Linzi Hateley, who I last seen on the cinema screen during Mama Mia! Here we go again, was very believable as the troubled mother of seven who struggles with a decision she feel she had no choice but to make. Mrs Lyons played by Sarah Jane Buckley has such a gripping story from her desperation to have a baby to her jealously, misery and her ultimate madness. The narrator played by Robbie Scotcher had a remarkable presence and his rocky voice was powerful and noteworthy. However, my favourite performance came from Sean Jones who played the role of Mickey in a journey like no other. The audience are completely captivated as we watch Mickey grow from a lovable, sincere, cheeky school boy into awkward teenager who then progresses into a troubled adult. Sean Jones is flawless in his characterisation and his portrayal of Mickey when he is suffering with depression is heart wrenching to watch. The devastation is clear from the audience as we see this goodhearted young man make poor decisions based on his circumstances that lead to his ultimate death.
The music of ‘Blood Brothers’ is very unique with such a variety of tempos and genres supporting the story line. The music is reprised throughout the show but often the pace, lyrics or instruments used are cleverly changed to reflect the changes on stage. There are some wonderful Jazz and Rock elements within the score that gives great diversity and keeps the audience engaged throughout. This musical does not feel jam packed with songs which makes me believe it would appeal to wider audiences, even those who are less fond of musicals but enjoy a gripping drama.
Although the show requires strong performers to deliver with conviction, I believe the ultimate success of this musical lies with Willy Russell who not only wrote the book, but he wrote the lyrics and the music too, which is outstanding in itself. This musical has not actually changed and evolved much over the years meaning that Russell’s vision is exactly what we see on stage today. It comes as no surprise that Blood brothers had over 10,000 consecutive shows during its 24-year West end run and its popularity cannot be denied today, decades later, as it still receives well deserved standing ovations.
It is always a pleasure to witness this musical but to review ‘Blood Brothers’ on the outskirts of its origins within Merseyside is an honour. Liverpool and its proud scousers have an undeniable passion and commitment to their city and its history which only adds to the magic of this musical.
If you have never seen ‘Blood Brothers’ before, I would urge you to go and even if you have seen it before, I would urge you to go again. I think it would be difficult to find someone who would not enjoy this classic musical for its passion, humour and emotion. This is a legendary musical that won’t tire out as people will go to see again and again and you will get something more out of it every time you do.
Reviewer: Blathine Maguire
Reviewed: 11th September 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★★★
Images: Previous Casts