Newest Review: ... other as two new pins Of one womb born, on the self same day How one was kept and one given away?" Blood Brothers is a very power... more
One of the few...(Re-Written)
Member Name: pjs21
Date: 03/09/00, updated on 04/05/01 (565 review reads)
Advantages: Strong Story, Good Songs
Disadvantages: You may cry in public!
Willy Russell is probably better known for plays like Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita, Stags and Hens and One For The Road. So when he came to write musical you can imagine the cynicism this news received. The man had no previous experience of musical writing and couldn't write a note of music.
But his critics were soon eating their words.
Blood Brothers is probably one of the most successful of all Musicals, and is one of the longest-running in the West End. Now playing at the Pheonix Theatre.
The play, for that is essentially what it is, was originally performed at the Liverpool Playhouse before transferring to London, and it continues to tour the country as well performances around the world.
The story is a great mix of comedy and drama which will keep you gripped until the very end. Where you will probably cry. So make sure you have a box of tissues on you.
The story pivots around one character, Mrs Johnstone. She is sad and desperate lady who despite everything manages to keep on going in order to support her ever increasing family. Her strength comes from film star Marilyn Monroe, someone she believes she is similar too.
Then she finds out she is pregnant – again – her husband leaves her for someone who looks like Marilyn Monroe, she agrees with her boss, Mrs Lyons, whose house she cleans, that Mrs Lyons can have one of the twins she is expecting.
The births take place and the agreement is carried out. Mickey stays with his mum, and Eddie goes off with his new rich mother and father.
The brothers are never to see each other again.
The story moves at a cracking speed and you are never left bored with the action on stage.
We are introduced to the twins, Mickey and Eddie, at the age of seven, and we watch them grow up into their thirties. All the time the parts of child and adult are played by the same actor, no children. This adds to the fun of
the production, and as long as you let your imagination go, you never even question or doubt what you are watching.
There are several other characters who each play an important part throughout other than the two mothers and the twins. We have Linda – Mickey's friend, who again we see from the age of 7, and later becomes the love interest. Sammy, Mickey's older brother, who eventually causes too many problems. And many other parts played by an ensemble company.
The most interesting part by far though comes in the shape of the Narrator. He talks to the audience throughout, telling the story. He sings to the characters on stage, though they never seem to notice him. Who is this man? He seems to be the devil. And when one character finally notices him and takes his hand, you know it’s about to get even more interesting.
I called it a play before because there feels like there is more dialogue than music in this. The songs work incredibly well and you never get the cheesy links where you think "Oh, here comes a song." They fit in perfectly and help to keep the story going.
Among the best are: Shoes Upon The Table (Narrator); Easy Terms (Mrs Johnstone); Sunday Afternoon (Mickey); Oh, Bright New Day (Mrs Johnstone) and Tell Me It’s Not True (Company).
Tell Me It's Not True will bring a tear to anyone's eye. It is an amazing song, superbly arranged and written.
My one criticism of the show goes to the casting. I've seen the show several times now (over 10) and the one character that always seems to be really badly acted is Mrs Lyons. I've seen 8 different actresses play the part and only 2 of them were any good (I have to say 2 as one of my friends played this character as well as Mrs Johnstone!), the others just went into melodrama. It's not enough to ruin the play as her scenes are never very long – but it is frustrating when she is surroun
ded by so many other strong characters.
The CD of this is available with many casts now – Barbara Dickson, Kiki Dee, Petula Clark, Stephanie Lawrence etc.
For my money the best has got to be Kiki Dee as Mrs Johnstone. Con O'Neill as Mickey, Warwick Evans as Narrator and the late Robert Locke as Eddie. It is the strongest cast, with the strongest voices. Con O'Neill won the Olivier Award for best actor for his performance as Mickey – it was well deserved and come's across strongly on this CD.
If you can get to see this show, you really should. It is one of the best in London. Forget Notre-Dame and Phantom, it’s Blood Brothers you should be buying your tickets for.
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