A musical that provides laughter and tears in equal measure. With a superb cast and gripping storyline, Blood Brothers has ticked all of the boxes for a great night at the theatre.
Nearly 30 years after its release, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers still has the ability to draw in massive crowds and tease their emotions, creating laughter and tears in just a short space of time. I was lucky enough to revisit the show that introduced me to musical theatre a few years ago, and was not left disappointed.
As a struggling single mother of an ever-growing brood, Mrs. Johnstone (Maureen Nolan) is aware she will be unable to provide for her family with the arrival of her newborn twins, and so makes a doomed pact with a rich, infertile woman desperate for a child of her own (Paula Tappenden). Once the promise is made, the condemned fate of the twins is sealed, as chance brings them back together seven years later.
The first half of the musical is where the lighthearted relationship between the twins begins; with cheeky Mickey (Sean Jones) forming an unlikely friendship with goody two shoes Eddie (Joel Benedict). Both actors put on a charming performance as children, with their playful sketches drawing many laughs from the audience. However, despite the light humor and upbeat songs, the presence of the narrator, (Marti Pellow) who is always lurking in the background, is a constant reminder of the ill-fated pact that has been made, and a warning of the tragedy to follow.
It is in the second half that this tragedy becomes increasingly imminent. Once the brothers grow into naïve teenagers, along with sweet Linda (Danielle Corlass), we see a love triangle begin to emerge, as she develops into a beautiful woman.
While Eddie’s future seems bright, Mickey’s life spirals into a world of depression and drug addiction. The stand out performance of the night belonged to the versatile Jones, now a bitter man unable to cope with the pressures of adulthood. As a viewer, it was hard to believe that he was playing a mischievous and lovable child just an hour before.
Tensions continue to mount, leading to an emotionally charged finale, as the chorus sing the most memorable number of the musical, ‘Tell Me Its Not True’, with Nolan delivering an impassioned and convincing portrayal of a heartbroken mother.
At 30 years old, the musical is starting to show its age with the overuse of synths, electric drums and the echo mic. However, the story is just as engaging and enjoyable now as it was before. A musical that leaves its audience aching with laughter, gasping in shock and wiping away tears, it is clear to see why Blood Brothers is as popular as its ever been. With a captivating cast that commit to the characters from the beginning to end, this musical is a must see!
Blood Brothers is at The Mayflower until 14th November. Tickets are available here.