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With interest in Blood Brothers revived through the canny decision to cast Mel C in the role of Mrs Johnstone, I thought I'd pen some thoughts.
I've seen the West End production an embarassing number of times now (well into the double digits!) and almost always, have had every emotional button pushed. More of a play with songs, than a musical, the show lacks the gloss of Wicked or the gasp inducing sets of Phantom. But what it does have is a very big heart and a story that shamelessly manipulates your emotions - and hoorah I say to that too.
The plot has been well documented in other reviews and revolves around issues of class and the nature vs nuture debate. As we laugh at the adult actors tumbling about as children, and smile as they grow into insecure teenagers, we also feel their growing pains and experience the opposing circumstances that face the privileged Eddie and the deprived Mickey.
With no crashing chandelier, revolving barricade or cherry picker ascending to the rafters (all good!) to distract us, this is a play that depends totally on its hardworking cast. Without exception, I have always left the theatre raving about the actors playing the twins. They not only have to sing, they have to convince us they are little boys, awakward teenagers and finally young adults in a world that is swiftly changing. And convince us they invariably do, especially with Mickey who undergoes the harrowing journey from innocent to fatally doomed. The confrontation scene with wife Linda is always breathtaking.
The role of Linda is pivotal to the brothers' relationship and again, it is always a joy to watch. From flirtatious schoolgirl, Linda metamorphs into a wife that tries heart and soul to hold the marriage together.
And finally the central role of Mrs J. Alas I've seen a few Mrs Js that have been perfunctory (no names) but when it works, it hits you between the eyes and right through your heart. The best ones I've seen are Lynn Paul whose voice cracks with every heartbreaking inflection; and ex X-Factor contestant Nikki Evans, who in the finale was so choked up, was sobbing her way though the song. My goodness, it's during these moments that you know why there is nothing like live theatre to engage brain and heart.
I've not seen Mel C but no doubt will report back when I do.
It's been around donkeys years and sometimes we think it's abit of a coach party production or a tourist trap. It's not. Blood Brothers remains a relevant piece of theatre and deserves the widest audience possible. I know I'll be returning.