Musical: Blood Brothers
Venue: Grand Opera House, York
Review by: Julia Pattison
Willy Russell’s acclaimed musical Blood Brothers makes a welcome return to York; possibly the secret of the show’s enduring success is that it is a musical with a strong book, it has a tale to tell.
Lyn Paul (member of the New Seekers in the 1970s) has played the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone many times in the past; this is her final tour playing the part, and she sang with passion, power and feeling on the opening night in York that I attended.
She’s choosing to leave on a high and will be a hard act to follow.
There were lots of shoes to fill cast wise in this year’s tour; I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing Sean Jones play Mickey over the years, yet Alexander Patmore left us wanting more with his sensitive portrayal of the troubled Twinnie – we laughed at his antics as nearly eight Mickey, and his hero worship of his brother Sammy ( wonderfully portrayed by Daniel Taylor) and empathised with Mickey’s pain when he learned the devastating truth about his twin brother. Joel Benedict was excellent in his role of Eddie; his heartfelt portrayal of this well-meaning, privileged boy, inextricably linked to Mickey by birth was both poignant and humorous, and couldn’t fail to touch your heart as the story unfolded.
A good story can be heard over and over again, and Willy Russell is a master story-teller.
Robbie Scotcher proved to be a worthy Narrator, acting as the inner demon plaguing both Mrs Johnstone, the working class mother, and middle class Mrs Lyons (sensitively portrayed by Chloe Taylor) who was desperate for a child of her own. He didn’t have the brooding menace of Keith Burns, who previously played the role in the 25th Anniversary Tour, but he had a powerful enough stage presence, and a fabulous singing voice. Good to see Graham Martin reprising his roles of the policeman and disillusioned teacher, and showing his versatility playing several other roles too.
The harmonies sung throughout the musical were superb, supported once again by an outstanding live band (directed by Matt Malone).
The songs such as Marilyn Monroe, Easy Terms and Tell Me It’s Not True, were an integral part of the storyline and all added to the tension and feelings of inevitability as fate took its course.
The cast were first rate, particularly in the Ensemble numbers such as Kids Game and the uplifting Bright New Day.
The “Tell Me It’s Not True” finale won a much-deserved standing ovation.
Fantastic sound, lighting and set design all complemented this fast-moving, perceptive and thought-provoking musical that you never tire of, no matter how many times you see it.