It’s hard to believe that what has become an iconic musical started life as a school play, writes Liz Coggins.
Willy Russell originally wrote Blood Brothers in 1982 and it was performed in front of 400 children in a Liverpool secondary school with no music and no scenery – the rest is history.
Shrouded in superstition and sadness Blood Brothers is the story of fraternal twins who are separated at birth; one is raised in poverty, and one raised in wealth.
Later in life the two brothers meet and fall in love with the same girl, each without knowing the other is his twin.
Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s new production is one of the slickest and energetic I have reviewed – and I have reviewed a lot over the years. It captures the humour and tragedy of the story in an emotive way.
It’s a seamless production played out on a well designed, well lit set although sound levels need some attention as they fluctuated throughout the performance .
In a series of flashbacks Blood Brothers follows the Johnstone twins through childhood, adolescence and manhood.
Alexander Patmore, Mickey, makes the perfect transition from a scruffy, dirty child with a mouth to match to an insecure teenager and finally a desperate, drug dependent man trying to come to terms with a prison sentence.
In total contrast Joel Benedict, Eddie, is totally convincing as the posh kid on the block going through public school and university in a world so far apart from Mickey’s.
Linzi Hateley’s Mrs Johnson is outstanding. Her vocals are powerful and laced with emotion especially in the showstopper Tell Me It’s Not True. She has the tenderness and empathy of a mother who has given away her child whilst expertly and effortlessly handling the comedy.
Robbie Scotcher’s narrator seems over intrusive at times and is a little too villainous and dark – but settles beautifully in the second half.
As the childless couple, Mr and Mrs Lyons make their characters so believable. Paula Tappenden’s Mrs Lyons is intense yet never overdramatic while Tim Churchill’s Mr Lyons is calm, reasoning and matter of fact whatever is thrown at him.
Blood Brothers has a versatile ensemble who give some amazing cameo performances doubling and trebling roles.
No matter how many times you’ve seen Blood Brothers this production is well worth seeing yet again.
It runs at Leeds Grand Theatre until Saturday May 18.
Tickets: 0844 848 2700 or on line here