Blood Brothers ~ Theatre Royal, Nottingham

Blood Brothers is on UK tour, all details can be found here: Blood Brothers UK Tour

Star rating: *****

Blood Brothers is one of Break A Leg’s favourites and it’s always a joy to review the show, the dynamics are different each time and yet the overall drama, comic timing and splendour of the production never waivers.

The story of the Johnstone twins who were separated at birth is led by the one and only Lyn Paul who has vocal ability which lends itself so perfectly to the role of Mrs Johnstone. Tell Me It’s Not True is a number which she has undoubtedly made her own. It’s fair to say that Mrs J fits Lyn Paul like a glove. Sarah Jane Buckley is a fine match for her as Mrs Lyons, I actually can’t imagine anyone else playing Mrs Lyons now – and yet I was lucky enough to see her as Mrs Johnstone when she understudied the role (see review here:  Sarah Jane Buckley Review) I don’t think I can elaborate on that experience any better than I did in that mini review!

I enjoyed the perspective I had on the set and backdrop on this occasion, I notice something different each time and I felt drawn in by the lights of Liverpool and particularly delighted in the ways in which the lighting accentuate the mood of the narrator (played terrifically by Chris Chisnall, so sinister and yet the softness of the heart of the character does shine through). Shoes Upon The Table is my absolute favourite song in the show, the strong, rousing beat of the music reflects the seriousness of the situation and I find its reprises are so in keeping with the nuances of the musical.

Sean Jones is an exceptional Mickey, from the 7 (nearly 8) year old with his hole-riddled pullover which he can pull down over his knees to the troubled and almost terrifying adult he becomes as a result of life’s twists and turns. Together with Mark Hutchinson as Edward, they have believable chemistry and the relationship with Linda (Danielle Corlass) has so many dimensions, its a clever little web. It’s clear that Linda loves both of the boys but in widely different ways and I feel sure that had the shoe been on the other foot, she would have had her heard turned by Mickey for different reasons leaving ‘Eddie’ jealous and suspicious.

The ensemble who play numerous roles between them should also be commended for the slickness with which they move from character to character. Graham Martin, Graeme Kinniburgh, Andy Owens, Alison Crawford, Tim Churchill and Amy-Jane Ollies make a tight-knit group who are each responsible for keeping the action flowing. I especially enjoyed Daniel Taylor’s portrayal of Sammy, I think he’s the best I’ve seen in the role.

This musical will continue to stand the test of time, I’m confident of that, and with popular tunes such as Marilyn Monroe, My Child and Easy Terms at the helm – it’s not difficult to see why the show packs houses out all over the UK.

 

 

 

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Blood Brothers ~ Malvern Theatres

At Malvern Theatres http://www.malvern-theatres.com until Saturday 17 September then touring: http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=590

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-1
Mrs Johnstone and her estranged twins

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.

 

 

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