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 ~ Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Blood brothers runs at Coventry Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 11 March 2017 prior to the rest of the UK tour, to book tickets visit: Blood Brothers Tour

Star rating: *****

Blood Brothers is my favourite musical bar none, I have yet to find any show that has the capacity to bring me to my feet within a split second when the crowd gives the guaranteed standing ovation. This show makes me laugh, cringe, cry and after expressing my undying elation for the brilliance of the cast, I could quite happily sit back down and watch it all again. Although I realise that it would be an impossible task to ask the cast to do that! An emotionally draining piece it certainly must be and at curtain call, so many of the wonderful performers still appear to be caught up in the last few moments of the production.

The story tells the sorry tale of the Johnstone twins, Mickey and Edward who are separated at birth after their mother makes a bargain with her employer. Their lives intertwine despite their mothers’ best intentions and it makes for a hilarious, heartening and tragic story. The cast perform as a solid ensemble and each key member has the ability to make you believe that they are children who steadily grow up throughout the duration of the show. The knowledge that the saga won’t end well is something we are provided with from the first scene, yet it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the drama as it unfolds. The scenes from Mickey and Eddie’s childhood are among my favourites, especially when they’re jumping on and off their ‘horses’.

This particular incarnation of the production stars Lyn Paul, one of the original and best Mrs Johnstones, she slips into character like its a second skin and the emotion she brings to the role is immense. Her voice carried beautifully around the packed auditorium and she’s lost none of the power that her vocal ability is renowned for. Sarah Jane Buckley matches her note for note and strength for strength as Mrs Lyons, Buckley was new to the role the last time I saw her. She was extraordinary back then but she has taken her performance to a different level, now. Pitch perfect, an actress de force and the transiton from desperate to joyous to raving mad is a measured and deliberate one. I can’t speak highly enough about her. Alison Crawford stepped into the role of Linda as understudy and she absolutely made the role her own. From portraying the character as a little girl to the troubled grown up, every nuance was there in abundance. One to watch for sure and I hope to see her play the part again.

Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone

Sean Jones is the best Mickey I have seen, he has precise comic timing to enable him to portray the young lad but he transforms completely when he’s all grown up. I haven’t seen Mark Hutchinson as Eddie before, but he played the role as a stark contrast to his brother and was a good choice as the more well to do of the pair. Jones and Hutchinson demonstrate strong vocal harmonies, especially in ‘That Guy’. Dean Chisnall is an imposing presence as the Narrator, his vocal ability never ceases to amaze me and he sings my favourite song ‘Shoes Upon The Table’ with power and venom. He slinks back into the shadows so that you almost forget he’s there. then creeps up again to remind the two mothers what they’ve done. Tim Churchill moves seamlessly between roles, playing a ramrod straight and frightfully posh Mr Lyons then transforming into Milkman, doctor and so on! He and Graham Martin are real chameleons of the piece as they take a variety of parts and give each the care and attention that they deserve. In Martin’s case, he starts off as Mr Johnstone, reappears as a kid on the street, plays two very different teachers and a well endowed and randy judge! Actors like this pair are the life-blood running through such a well-oiled machine as this popular musical.

With a set that invites you in and frames the action whilst adding to the ambience and catchy musical numbers which include ‘Easy Terms’, ‘I’m Not Saying A Word’ and ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ – I’d say the cast and crew give quite a show just like Marilyn Monroe!

 

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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