Blood Brothers

The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton


Somehow, over a period of time, a musical seeps into the national consciousness. It cannot happen overnight. A combination of word of mouth, and return visits create a critical mass, and for some very fortunate shows legendary status is bestowed.

I have seen this show several times over the past forty years. Of course I wondered beforehand whether the magic remained. I was not to be disappointed.

It is a musical. It is also a powerful narrative whose ingredients are timeless. Each new cast has the opportunity to stamp their own personalities on the characters and offer generational shifts. The pivotal figure is Mrs Johnstone, played by X factor protégé Niki Colwell Evans. She is fabulous in this show following in a distinguished lineage of actresses who have played the role.

The tale of two brothers, separated at birth, then reunited with tragic consequences, it retains a comic warmth which sustains the show through the bleak moments of heartbreak, with a musical score which lifts the spirits. Directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, never allow the pace to drop, or the mood to sink too low.

As our country says farewell to one monarch, and welcomes a new one, at a time of national economic crisis, the divide between the haves and have nots captures the zeitgeist of the moment. It is a snapshot of a bygone age , a time when skirts were ubiquitous, and grinding poverty and crisp laundry existed side by side with the Tally Man always on the doorstep.

Richard Munday imposes a mysterious gravitas to the role of narrator, “So did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins? As like each other as two new pins.” His chiming rhyming couplets doom laden from the start.

The vastly experienced , Paula Tappenden excels as (Mrs Lyons), a part she has played many times before, while the bug eyed Timothy Lucas offers Sammy a zany scouse persona. Carly Burns is sassy and scintillating as the multi-dimensional Linda. The shift from micro skirted schoolgirl femme fatale to adult is challenging but Burns moves from cocky kid to world weary adult with ease.

The striking cityscape of Liverpool set is imaginatively presented by Andy Walmsley, the Liver building looming over everything. Cheekily, longstanding Everton fan (and past Club Chairman) Bill Kenwright ensures that it is Everton graffiti on the street wall. The lighting is atmospheric and portentous, skilfully executed by Nick Richings particularly in the iconic closing scene. Yes, there was a standing ovation at the end, and yes, “Tell me it’s not true” brings tears to the eyes. But that was what you expected wasn’t it? To 17-09-22.

Gary Longden


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