8th March 2022
By Shaun Tossell
Tell me it is true! Willy Russell’s beloved musical Blood Brothers is touring the UK again and I was lucky enough to catch it at the Theatre Royal Bath.
Bill Kenwright’s award-winning production of this classic musical has been touring up and down the country for decades now, picking up new fans along the way. How does the latest tour compare? Read on…
Blood Brothers tells “the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences”.
Returning to the show, after previously starring in the West End production, is Niki Evans in the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone.
Evans is utterly mesmerizing with her portrayal as the tragic young mother, imbuing the character with a quiet desperation, even convincing during the show’s more melodramatic moments. Her powerful rendition of the shows climactic number ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ was heartbreaking and brought me to tears.
Sean Jones also returns to the show as Mickey, playing the role on and off for over 20 years. Even after all these years, Jones still completely captivates as the young Mickey, with his cheeky demeanor. Though his later scenes with the fantastic Carly Burns (as Linda), dealing with his mental health struggles, are devastating.
Joel Benedict stars as Eddie, the twin who inadvertently grows up privileged. Benedict brilliantly portrays the young soft-spoken Eddie, with a charming innocence and naivete. His early interactions with Sean Jones as Mickey are a highlight.
Also a standout is Paula Tappenden as Mrs Lyons, ramping up the hysteria as the show goes on. The show features a small but very talented ensemble who play multiple supporting roles, switching seamlessly throughout, to sometimes great amusement.
The staging is relatively simple but remains incredibly effective, with the lighting definitely the star of the show, adding an otherworldly quality to a story rooted in realism.
The songs by Willy Russell definitely show the decade it depicts and was created in, with haunting synths and bombastic electric drums. Though they songs may seem a little simplistic, they are full of emotion and meaning, cleverly repeated throughout the show.
Even though the book by Willy Russell does veer into melodrama, it still packs an emotional gut-punch and unfortunately, in some ways, resonates even more today.
Blood Brothers is a quintessentially British musical, full of heartbreak and charm. Even after all these years, it is still undoubtedly the ‘Standing Ovation Musical’. Go see it now!
Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is playing at the Theatre Royal Bath until 12th March 2022, before continuing to tour the UK & Ireland.
Tickets & more info – https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/blood-brothers-2022/
Photo credit – Jack Merriman