Set in post-war Liverpool in the 1960s,Willy Russell’s timeless tale yells the captivating, yet ultimately tragic tale of twin brothers separated at birth and growing up in contrasting worlds.
When Mrs Johnstone, a young mother, is deserted by her husband and left to her own devices to provide for seven hungry children she takes a job as a housekeeper in order to make ends meet. It is not long before her brittle world crashes around her when she discovers herself to be pregnant yet again – this time with twins! In a moment of weakness and desperation, she enters a secret pact with her employer which leads inexorably to the show’s shattering climax.
The touching tale tinged with trauma throughout, is narrated chillingly by Richard Munday. Munday offered the perfect bridge from the light to dark shifts in mood. Lit by a stark white light, he roamed the stage menacingly, personifying the bad omen he warned of.
Written by the much-lauded playwright Willy Russell, few musicals have been received with such acclaim as the multi-award-winning Blood Brothers. Considered ‘one of the best musicals ever written’ (Sunday Times), Bill Kenwright’s production surpassed 10,000 performances in London’s West End, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone.
The show has since triumphed across the globe, completing sell out seasons in the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan, and scooping up four awards for Best Musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway. And it was what appeared to be a packed house welcoming its return to the UK on opening night at The Belgrade.
The superb score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True. It’s this strong script and score combination that keeps die-hard fans – like myself – returning time and time again. Many fans of the show will recognise some of the returning faces too, among them Niki Colwell Evans and Sean Jones effortlessly reprising their iconic roles as Mrs Johnstone and Mickey – owning the roles and the stage.
Strong performances were turned in by all however in a production which charts this tragic story so beautifully, tentatively and yet, often comically. In my view this continues to be an evergreen for musical theatre fans.
In the final scene the tension is palpable even for those of us who know what’s coming. (For those who still don’t, no spoilers here!) But yet another standing ovation eases the tension with well-deserved audience appreciation. The show deserves its reputation as the timeless and powerful production it is.
Blood Brothers plays at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre until Saturday and tickets are available from the box office here