Blood Brothers at Phoenix Theatre, London
Performance: Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 19:45
Seat: Stalls right, second row (very close to the stage but the stage slopes so the view was fine)
Cast included: Vivienne Carlyle (Mrs Johnstone), Philip Stewart (Narrator), Mark Rice-Oxley (Mickey), Paul Christopher (Eddie), Abigail Jaye (Mrs Lyons), Louise Clayton (Linda), Michael Southern (Sammy), Kevin Pallister (Mr Lyons)
Plot summary for those not familiar with Blood Brothers: It is the story of Mickey and Eddie, twins separated at birth, out of whom one grows up in the wealthy Lyons family and the other in poorer conditions with Mrs Johnstone (the biological mother) but both equally unaware they have a twin brother and the mothers are determined to keep it that way. However, at the age of 7 the boys happen to meet each other and they become the best of friends.
|They've made a Blood Brothers stamp!|
Blood Brothers is a remarkable musical. I should like to say it is more like a musical play than a musical. That is not because there isn't enough singing in it but rather because one cannot classify it as full-on cheesy, I think. Blood Brothers is about death (no, that's not a spoiler because that's revealed right at the start!) and economic depression. The show has become increasingly relevant again now that the economic situation is not looking promising and even though its setting is very specific in terms of location and historical context, Blood Brothers can be enjoyed also by those who do not have this background knowledge. The one thing I would point out to those whose first language is not English, though: some of the characters speak in a fairly strong accent so you may not catch absolutely everything they say. Don't be frightened off by that though, and I thought this one was easier to understand than Billy Elliot.
One would expect Mickey and Eddie to be the main characters and in a way yes, they are the ones referred to in the title and without them there really would not be a story to tell. However, it is Mrs Johnstone who sings and is featured the most along with the narrator who eerily hovers around. The part of Mrs Johnstone has been portrayed by many famous singers because that distinct musical theatre voice is not essential to play the part. And now that we are on the characteristics of Blood Brothers that make it different to most musicals, I might mention that it does not have tons of those spectacular in-real-life-no-one-would-dance-there-like-that kind of dance numbers - you know what I mean.
All of the cast did a great job, especially Vivienne Carlyle as Mrs Johnstone and Louise Clayton as Linda. The former had a very pleasant singing voice and the latter succeeded particularly well in conveying Linda's aging process (one could really see her getting old before her time). Abigail Jaye also had a gorgeous voice (a little more of a musical theatre one) and she is the understudy for Mrs Johnstone - it would be most interesting to see her play that part. On the whole, however, I don't think this musical is as much about who's in it. People will go and see it regardless because it has gained the classic status.
Tell Me It's Not True from the 1995 London cast recording (if people know one song from the musical, it is usually this one):