Blood Brothers April 2017
Blood on tour
'Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins, as like each other as two new pins. Of one womb born on the self-same day, how one was kept and one given away'
This week, the Bristol Hippodrome welcomes Blood Brothers to the stage; a tragic comedy that's been touring the UK for 30 years and still packing out theatres with audiences young and old.
This timeless tale written by Willy Russell, has won no fewer than four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway, making it one of the best loved musical productions across the globe with no sign of slowing any time soon.
The cold open was somewhat ominous – showing two slain bodies being carried off by undertakers; a grieving mother aghast at their sudden demise. It is then that the narrator, played by Dean Chisnall, began to tell the tale that we all knew was doomed to end in tragedy.
We were, however, then quickly transported back in time and introduced to a young, charismatic Mrs Johnstone (played by Lyn Paul who was first cast for the role in 1997), an impoverished but loving Liverpudlian woman struggling to support her growing family.
With a deadbeat husband who’s jollied off with a younger looking ‘Marilyn Monroe’, Mrs Johnson finds herself back up the duff with twins and in need of work to support her brood. It's then that she meets wealthy Mrs Lyons, played by Sarah Jane Buckley, who requires not only a cleaner, but a surrogate too.
Fraught with desperation, Mrs Lyons asks Mrs. Johnson to give her one of her twin babies and while faced with enormous pressure, a heavily superstitious Mrs Johnson is forced to swear upon the bible that she will uphold their deal – a deal that, if broken, will lead to fatal consequences.
The smartly dressed narrator later introduced us to two children, aged seven (nearly eight) – one raised by Mrs Johnson at the less fortunate end of town, the other surrounded by luxury with his anxious mother Mrs Lyons.
The boys, of course, have no idea they are in fact twins, yet share a bond that is unparalleled in any of their other friendships – a bond that they decide makes them Blood Brothers.
Sean Jones, who has appeared on the West End on numerous occasions, played Micky Johnson from seven all the way up to adulthood.
While Jones himself is a fully grown man, he managed to effortlessly portray a pre-pubescent tyrant with various flatulence issues and naturally evolve in front of us into a curious teen and eventually a downtrodden adult.
Mark Hutchinson played Eddie, the 'other' twin, who was raised in privilege but tainted by his mother's guilt and secrecy.
His performance, while pleasing in contrast to the murky set behind him, may have felt somewhat forced – with an air of 'pantomime posh' that lent nothing to the desired effect.
Still, watching his character’s development was also interesting, as was his relationship to Micky’s lifelong friend Linda played by Danielle Corlass.
The set, direction and costume design were all superb, with each character clearly displaying their evolving age as well as a distinctive social class through their outfits, attitude and environment.
The graffitied brick walls, hand-me-down ripped clothes and even the Johnstone children’s toys helped give context to the bigger picture, while the Lyons’ immaculate home and tidy garments portrayed a permanent contrast that pushed the story forward.
Arguably the best thing about Blood Brothers is the music.
Each and every cast member’s voice was strong enough to do justice to big numbers like My Child, Sunday Afternoon and Take A Letter Miss Jones, with narrator Dean Chisnall really stealing the show on numerous occasions.
While we knew from the offset how the story ends, we were curious as to how the journey would unfold and were kept guessing for the show’s entirety as to what might happen next. It is for that reason, as well as the exceptional acting and direction, that the show received a standing ovation on opening night and will likely continue to do so for the duration of its tour.
Blood Brothers is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, April 22.
Blood Brothers anniversary tour
PREVIEW: If you have't seen Blood Brothers yet may I urge to to go along and watch this show which is in my top five of all time.
2017 marks 30 years since Bill Kenwright’s production of the international smash hit musical Blood Brothers first toured the UK. In celebration, the iconic musical will visit theatres across the country this year, playing at the Bristol Hippodrome in April.
Hailed as one of the best musicals of all time, Blood Brothers, written by award-winning playwright Willy Russell has triumphed across the globe. Scooping up no fewer than four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway, Blood Brothers is simply unmissable and unbeatable.
This epic tale of Liverpool life started as a play, performed at a Liverpool comprehensive school in 1981 before opening at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983, completing sell out seasons in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.
Blood Brothers also ran in London’s West End for 24 years, exceeding 10,000 performances, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone.
No stranger to Blood Brothers, Lyn Paul returns to the iconic role, one she first played in 1997.
Lyn played Mrs Johnstone in the final West End performances at the Phoenix Theatre in 2012. She has also starred in the UK tour of Cabaret in 2013 as Fraulein Schneider, in Boy George’s musical Taboo and in Footloose - the Musical.
Lyn rose to fame in the early 1970s as a member of the New Seekers.
She was the featured vocalist on their 1972 Eurovision Song Contest entry, Beg, Steal or Borrow, in which they came second and lead vocalist on the 1974 number-one hit You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me.
Among the group’s other works, they recorded the song ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, adapted from an advertising jingle for Coca-Cola, which sold 20 million copies and still remains one of the 100 best-selling singles in the UK.
The cast for Blood Brothers includes Sarah Jane Buckley, Dean Chisnall, Mark Hutchinson, Sean Jones, Adam Search, Danielle Corlass, Tim Churchill, Graham Martin, Laura Harrison, Alison Crawford, Graeme Kinniburgh, Henry Regan and Josh Capper.
Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret.
The memorable score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.
When Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, is deserted by her husband and left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children she takes a job as a housekeeper in order to make ends meet.
It is not long before her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant yet again – this time with twins! In a moment of weakness and desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer which leads inexorably to the show’s shattering climax.
A sensational cast, incredible show stopping music, remarkable staging and five star performances make Blood Brothers an enthralling night of entertainment.
Willy Russell is undeniably one of this country’s leading contemporary dramatists.
His countless credits include Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. Educating Rita, originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, enjoyed a two year run in the West End and was made into a movie starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Shirley Valentine also made the move from stage to screen in an enormously popular film starring Pauline Collins and Tom Conti.
Blood Brothers runs from Monday to Saturday, April 10-22.
Tickets from £17.90 with concessions by clicking HERE.available at certain prices and performances.
To read previous Nailsea people reviews click HERE.