Blood Brothers

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Blood Brothers is Willy Russell’s “Liverpudlian folk opera” which tells the story of Mrs Johnstone, a newly single mother of many children struggling to make ends meet. Pregnant once again, she manages to find a cleaning job for a well to do couple – Mr and Mrs Lyons. When Mrs Johnstone discovers that she is infact expecting twins she is persuaded by childless Mrs Lyons to give her one of the babies to raise as her own, promising her that she will always be able to visit and spend time with her baby.

Things, very quickly, take a dramatic turn and Mrs Lyons sacks Mrs Johnstone leaving her devastated at not being able to see her son anymore.

The lives of the twins, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Jay Worley) are very different, but are intertwined and they somehow keep finding each other, and end up being a large part of each other’s lives as “Blood Brothers”.

Blood Brothers is a story that has been told in theatres around the world, it had a 24 year run in the West End, as well as touring throughout the UK and internationally. I personally, have seen this show more than any other show. And do you know what? It hasn’t lost a single inch of its magic. Everything about this production is outstanding.

The script is the glue that holds everything together. It’s hilarious, moving and heartbreaking all at the same time, something we can always rely on Willy Russel to provide. The set is simple and really hasn’t changed over the years, but it doesn’t need to. It helps to tell the narrative – along with the ever present and haunting narrator played by Richard Munday. Every single hair on my head stood on end during his performance of “Shoes on the Table”.

Niki Colwell Evans is magnificent as Mrs Johnstone. She is entertaining, engaging and her delivery of Tell Me It’s Not True at the finale was spine tingling and utterly heartbreaking. She had the audience sobbing openly.

Jay Worley, as Eddie, is a breath of fresh air. He brings life to the role, and his chemistry with both Mickey and Linda ( Carly Burns) makes the story so much more believable and entertaining. 
Carly Burns is just wonderful as the ever optimistic and loving Linda, who at times has her loyalty tested with catastrophic results. 

Sean Jones was born for the role of Mickey, he kept us laughing in his portrayal of young Mickey, taking on his big brother Sammy, played by the fabulous Timothy Lucas. Every note he sang was pitch perfect. Jones did a magnificent job of playing Mickey as a drug dependent young man, struggling with depression and self doubt. Blood Brothers can often be thought of as comedic show with a tragic ending, but it is so much more than that. Jones shows us just how vulnerable and desperate Mickey is and we are invested in his success and failures. Which is why the ending results in the entire auditorium gasping (loudly).

The whole cast is outstanding; this show is a well oiled machine and it just doesn’t age. The musical numbers are brilliantly performed and are the reason that people like me keep coming back again and again. I’m guessing that the rest of the audience felt the same, judging by the way they literally jumped from their seats before the last note was played.

Blood Brothers is the greatest of British musical theatre all in one show. It is a must see for all, especially if you’re a northerner!

Blood Brothers is on at The Lowry until Saturday 22nd October tickets available here.

Blood Brothers

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“So, did y’ hear the story of the Johnstone twins? As like each other as two new pins…”

I mean if you haven’t…where have you been!?

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers seems to have been around forever, be that in the West End, touring or internationally for over 30 years and yet still maintains it’s huge magnetic pull, attracting repeated audiences and new ones alike.

Set in 1960’s Liverpool, Blood Brothers is the all engrossing and poignant tale of the Johnstone twins, ‘Mickey’ (Josh Capper) and ‘Eddie’ (Joel Benedict), who are painstaking separated at birth, by their struggling single mother Mrs Johnstone (Nikki Evans). Whilst one is given away to Mrs. Lyons (Paula Tappenden), the other is kept, highlighting just how different growing up on the opposite side of the class system can be. This story sees the coming together of love, friendship, social circumstances, superstition, destiny and their fateful consequences…

It’s now the middle of February 2022, and yet again we are still reminded of the ‘fateful’ consequences and uncertainty of making theatre in a pandemic, as for this evening’s performance there were a couple of last minute on the day cast changes, with Mickey being played by Josh Capper and Sammy by Pete Washington. It has to be said whilst both did a fantastic job fitting into the company seamlessly, special kudos must go to Capper for not only stepping into one of musical theatre’s most iconic shoes to keep the show alive, but also managing to do it successfully with the style, verve and charisma that is needed to pull off the role of Mickey.

Setting the scene of down-trodden council estate 1960’s Liverpool, we see the ensemble cast flourish. In particular Tim Churchill’s hilarious turn as the ‘Milkman’ and quick change to the ‘Gynaecologist’ is a crowd pleaser. It’s these scenes that light up the stage, beautifully juxtaposed and offsetting the audience for what’s to come later. Musically the ensemble numbers are really enjoyable and allows for a welcome escape, with ‘Kids’ Game’ and ‘Bright New Day’ being two of the highlights.

Malone’s band are faultless and the score provides some great songs. Mrs Johnstone (Nikki Evans) has the best of them, her beautifully rich, empathetic voice is perfect for the role and we feel all her emotions through it, particularly with her powerful rendition of the iconic ‘Tell Me its Not True,’ which is a show stand-out and devastates the whole auditorium.

Whilst Tomson’s production is sharp, slick and polished, with all aspects of the production extremely well crafted and excellently brought together, one could argue that this production is pretty much a carbon copy of the countless Bill Kenwright productions that have come before it and doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. But the question is does it need to? After all there’s a reason Blood Brothers has stood the test of time both in the UK and internationally. It’s longevity is due to the grit and soul at the heart of the show, which however many times you watch it, is still there posing the same relevant questions about the same prevalent collective issues; be that the social class system or mental heath. This production still remains punchy, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The ultimate standing ovation show, Blood Brothers has a bit of something for everyone. Whether you’ve seen it 10 times or you’re a first timer, Russell’s long standing smash-hit classic certainly makes for a wonderfully entertaining evening at the theatre.

Blood Brother’s runs at the Palace theatre, Manchester until Saturday 26th February tickets available here.