Tuesday, 21 November 2017

“Blood Brothers”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
My all time favourite musical so you can guess that I’ll be heavily biased towards this production. It’s one of those musicals that I can watch endlessly and never tire of the story and the wonderful songs within the production.
The story is of Mrs Johnstone and her family. Debts are piling up and Mrs J is finding it hard to keep on top of them all. She takes on a cleaning job for Mrs Lyons who is trying to have children and by a cruel twist of fate, Mrs Johnstone falls pregnant again, this time with twins. Knowing that times are tough, and will only get worse, Mrs J makes the decision, under pressure, to hand over one of the twins to Mrs Lyons to pass off as her own. Mr Lyons works away from home quite a bit.
Mrs J keeps one twin but, when seeing her other twin at the home where she is still cleaning gets a bit too much for Mrs Lyons, she decides to relieve Mrs Johnstone of her services and bans her from ever making contact with the family again.
Things do not go to plan and when Mrs Lyons moves away from the area she thinks that all their problems are solved. That is until Mrs Johnstone is also moved by the council to a new home. The two twins grow up and they meet, quite by accident and become friends and blood brothers, unaware of their real identity.
As they grow up their lifestyles grow further apart, Mickey Johnstone has lost his job, ends up in prison, dependent on drugs and has married Linda, who is now pregnant.
Eddie Lyons is successful after graduating from University and works for the council and is doing well for himself. But things turn very dark for both brothers and it all comes to an explosive ending.
Lyn Paul (Mrs Johnstone) is, as usual excellent. I’ve seen other Mrs Johnstones, and while they have all been wonderful, Lyn is my favourite, the ultimate Mrs Johnstone. It’s a role that was made for her and she gives an honest and incredibly emotional performance every time. Lyn's on stage ageing over the years in the play is excellently done.
Sean Jones (Mickey) has played this role every time that I’ve seen the show and he still presents that wonderful fun and childlike qualities to this role while in Act Two becoming the depressed, pill dependent and dark character. And that is what I love about this musical, the extreme light and dark that Willy Russell has written into this musical so incredibly well.
Mark Hutchinson (Eddie) does the toff role so well. This is the first time that I've seen Mark, even though he has a long association with the part. Once more the ageing up of the role was done so well, making the older Edward more believable.
Danny Taylor (Sammy) may at first seem a little old to be playing the 10 year old and upwards Sammy, as soon as he got into the older Sammy, like Mark, he became instantly more realistic. But a brilliant fun role like Sammy must be a joy for any actor
Alison Crawford (Brenda) and Amy-Jane Ollies (Donna Marie) are both excellent in their character seeped roles.
Danielle Corlass (Linda) reprises her role from when I saw her last two years ago as Linda, and she is as entertaining in this role as she ever was. her ageing process from schoolgirl Linda to Mickey's wife looks natural.
Sarah Jane Buckley (Mrs Lyons) is brilliant as the "always looking over her shoulder" paranoid Mrs Lyons, and what a gorgeous voice. her duet with Lyn Paul, "My Child" is just one of many emotive,and beautifully sung musical pieces in this soundtrack.
Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons) is the business driven husband who will do anything for an easy married life.
One vital role in this musical is the Narrator, played by Dean Chisnall. A dark character that is the glue in this show and often haunts the background like a circling shark, creating tension and atmosphere. The "Devil" that can only be seen by the paranoid Mrs Lyons, whose number he certainly has!
Graham Martin plays just about every other role, about 18 I counted, from Mrs Johnstone's husband through to the judge, debt collector and policeman. Grahame Kinniburgh (Bus Conductor) completed the cast.
Directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenright. Just the perfect pacing and presentation.
Musical direction by Phil Gostelow. The songs, to me are classics and with the echo chamber in overdrive, it gave added layering to the sound.
Dan Samson (Sound Design) and Nick Richings (Light Design). What can I say? Just perfect!
The set design is by Andy Walmsley and this time around the back drop was different to the last few productions that I'd seen. A wonderful city scape and luscious green countryside back drops places you perfectly in the locations.
I am very biased with "Blood Brothers" and that could be because the emotional story and the emotional investment the cast put in. They reap the rewards of that investment by getting a complete standing ovation, drawing the cast back four times.
This story of brotherhood, motherhood, friendship,love, superstition, jealousy and depression will always be relevant, and as long as the emotional element remains as high as it has over the last few decades, this musical will remain one of the best loved pieces of musical theatre.
Go and see this if you've never seen it before, and if you have seen it before, go and see it again, and take your hanky, you'll need it!
“Blood Brothers” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 25 November 2017

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