Watford Colosseum 31st March 2014
Blood Brothers was one of the West Ends longest running shows when it closed its doors after 10,000 performances in 2012. The shows producer, Bill Kenwright was confident that the Blood Brothers story would not end there. The show is a phenomenon, capturing the hearts of audiences wherever it plays. When the show opened on Broadway to reviews that would have usually ensured its closure within a week, the audience defied the critics and made it an outstanding success. Known as the 'Miracle of Broadway,' this demonstrates the overwhelming power this show has.
Willy Russell's musical is a sheer masterpiece. Set in over a 20 year period in Liverpool, Blood Brothers tells the story of two twins separated at birth and raised apart in very different families. As the story unfolds the two boys become childhood friends unaware of their connection. It's universal themes of love, inequality, poverty, unemployment, blood ties and loss have ensured its popularity worldwide. It is little wonder that these timeless topic have evoked such a profound and emotional response with audiences. Despite it's setting over a twenty year period it's message still holds so much resonance in today's world. Over its history the show has attracted some big names Helen Reddy, Carole King, Barbara Dickson, Kiki Dee, Petula Clarke, Melanie Chisholm, Lyn Paul, David Sole, Russell Crowe, Carl Wayne and Marti Pellow.
Having seen the show a couple of times, it never loses it's power and always brings the audience to their feet at it's shocking and hugely emotional climax. It is a musical for all time. Even if you hate musicals this one has no dancing ( almost) no jazz hands or epic musical theatre belters. It is a show that holds truth at its heart. Part of its success is its simplicity: the story is accessible and the music is understated and relies on various leitmotifs to help tell the story.
This production was equal to the west end show although with slightly less scenery as it's a touring production. The Narrator is a character who appears to get more and more sinister each time I see the show. Lurking in the darkness, he is the sooth sayer foreshadowing the events as they unfold and interacting with the characters like some Faustian creation. Played perfectly by Kristofer Harding he captures the right amount of compassion and intimidation and it is easy to see in this production where his sympathies lie.
The supporting cast are as stella as always, playing multiple roles with skill and ease. Even though this is very much show that relies heavily on team effort it is always Mrs Johnstone the linchpin of the show and Maureen Nolan continues a family tradition of playing a role, doing a sublime job.Seeing the show again, I am reminded of the physical and emotional demands that the show places on its central characters. Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson as twins Micky and Eddie hold your attention when they are on stage, whether they are playing 7 year olds or 18 year olds you immerse yourself totally in their performances never questioning the fact that the roles are played by two grown men: that alone is part of the charm and genius that the musical has - you really get drawn into the story and swallow it hook line and sinker.
Tracy Spencer plays Mrs Lyons, the adoptive mother of Eddie and does a great job with such a detestable character with whom we have little sympathy. A real character driven show, Blood Brothers does not rely on complex scenery and special effects. In the early days before it was a fully fledged musical, it was performed in schools with no set and was hugely successful. Today nothing has changed, you could perform it anywhere and it would still have the unique power to reel you in, make you laugh and then break your heart but still have you talking about it for days.
Very few shows have the ability to provoke such a profound response in the audience time and time again and have a standing ovation every night. It is a show that will be around for a very long time to come due to its humanity, simplicity and the fact that, as Willy Russell says "it is a musical that's loved by people who hate musicals!"