Star Rating: *****
Lyn Paul is described as the definitive Mrs Johnstone and last night, I saw the reason for this accolade, as she brought the house down in Blood Brothers at Malvern Theatres. It appeared that not one person in the packed auditorium in Malvern remained seated as the audience collectively rose to their feet in one of the most enthusiastic standing ovations I have ever seen in my blogging career!
The musical follows the story of the Johnstone twins who are separated at birth, Mrs Johnstone (Lyn Paul) needs a reprieve from having too many hungry mouths to feed and Mrs Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley) is desperate to have a baby. The Lyons family are very well to do and Mrs Johnstone reluctantly agrees to the bargain for what she believes are the right reasons. The decision haunts both women and becomes even harder to ignore when the estranged brothers, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Edward (Joel Benedict) meet, befriend one another and decide to be ‘blood brothers’. Given their very different upbringings, this is a turn of events that is wholly unexpected for Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. There are plenty of giggles along the way, though, despite the dark presence of the narrator (Dean Chisnall) and the feeling of impending doom which will surely result from this deal. The score is also incredible and the cast as an ensemble have the perfect range of vocals to give the wow factor to every musical number.
Blood Brothers has a huge following and the cast usually has minimal changes as a new tour starts. Graham Martin, for example, has been part of the cast for the past few tours and he is a popular member of the ensemble. He brings superb comic charters to life, whether it be as Mr Johnstone, head teachers from two very different schools, the local bobby or a rather randy judge. New members of the cast for this tour are Sarah Jane Buckley, who gave an ovation-worthy performance as Mrs Lyons. Watching her progress through the transition of emotions as Mrs Lyons loses control, was an awe-inspiring experience. Adam Search was a dream as Sammy, he was bullish, sulky and entirely believable as one of the Johnstone children, at every age that he played. Dean Chisnall was the epitome of a silent assassin as he skulked around the stage after Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. My favourite number in the show is Shoes Upon The Table and Chisnall certainly did this justice, and then some!
Danielle Corlass is my favourite Linda, I’ve seen the show a few times and she manages to combine heart, warmth, silliness and gives an incredibly emotive performance, too. Joel Benedict warmed my heart as Edward, I’m Not Saying A Word was one of the highlights of the show for me. Benedict is hilariously up tight when he first appears beside Mickeys front step and tells the character’s story truthfully and with charm. In contrast, Sean Jones is cheeky, bolshie and has stunning vocal ability. Long Sunday Afternoon is delivered brilliantly by Jones and he duets beautifully with Benedict during My Friend and That Guy. As for Lyn Paul, she IS Mrs Johnstone, whether she’s lending her exceptional voice to Marilyn Monroe, Easy Terms or Tell Me It’s Not True.
If you’ve never seen this show before, I urge you to buy a ticket to see this on tour. If you’ve seen it before, I can testify that the cast changes have enhanced the existing line up and you won’t regret another trip to see this outstanding musical.