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January 23rd - January 27th
Written by Willy Russell, the legendary Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving tale of twins who, separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences.
Few musicals have received quite such acclaim as the multi-award winning Blood Brothers. Bill Kenwright’s production surpassed 10,000 performances in London’s West End, one of only three musicals ever to achieve that milestone.
It has been affectionately christened the ‘Standing Ovation Musical’, as inevitably it “brings the audience cheering to its feet and roaring its approval” (The Daily Mail).
The superb score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.
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A View from Behind the Arras - Jane Lush
Willy Russell’s legendary Blood Brothers promises an evening of tears, surprises and laughter without a dry eye at the end!
It tells the captivating and very moving tale of twins, who , separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks only to meet again with fateful consequences.
Bill Kenwright’s production surpassed 10,000 performances in the West End, one of only three musicals ever to have achieved that milestone and few musicals have achieved quite such acclaim as the multi-award winning Blood Brothers.
It has been affectionately christened the “Standing ovation Musical” as inevitably it “brings the audience cheering to its feet and roaring its approval” (The daily Mail).
The superb score includes Tell me its not true, Bright New Day and Marilyn Monroe.
The Narrator, played powerfully by Scott Anson, tells us the story of the Johnstone twins, Mickey and Edward who were separated at birth and died the same day.
First we meet the twins’ mother Mrs Johnstone, played with great depth and emotion by X Factor’s Niki Colwell Evans, who returns to the role after playing it in the West End.
She is a lower working class woman who was abandoned by her husband after giving birth to five children and while pregnant with another. She reminisces about the days she went dancing with her husband who made her feel like Marilyn Monroe. Through her song, Marilyn she describes her life as a never ending cycle of unpaid bills and hungry children.
Mrs Johnstone works at the house of Mrs Lyons, played effectively by Sarah Jane Buckley , a wealthy woman who longs for a child of her own.
Mrs Johnstone is pregnant again and is devastated to discover she is carrying twins. When she reveals this to Mrs Lyons, she implores her to let her take one of the twins which is unthinkable but Mrs Johnstone doesn’t know how she will feed two more mouths. She eventually agrees to swear on the bible never to reveal the truth of their bargain.
As promised, after giving birth one of the twins is given away.
After Mrs Johnstone returns to work Mrs Lyons does not like the attention she is giving to her baby and fires her.
Throughout the play the narrator gives foreboding warnings of the misfortunes that will follow, and the wrath of the devil.
The twins meet up by chance seven years later. When they find that they share a birthday they make a pact to become “Blood brothers”.
Despite the disapproval of their mothers Mickey and Edward stay in contact over the following years, in spite of their very different backgrounds. Mickey grows up in a rough and tumble background whereas Edward grows up in the lap of luxury believing Mrs Lyons to be his mother.
The events that follow take us on a rollercoaster journey, brought to us by a stunning and talented cast, through dazzling song and dance routines and ending in violent disaster.
I have seen this incredible show many times but tonight’s performance, with the dynamism and energy of this very talented cast stood out to me.
Returning to the role of Mickey is Sean Jones who gave a fantastic and highly emotional performance especially at the end while Joe Sleight gave an excellent performance as twin Eddie.
Gemma Broderick, as Linda gave a highly moving and believable performance.
Graeme Kenniburgh plays the bus conductor and postman, Josh Capper plays a neighbour, Mr Lyons is played by Tim Churchill, Chloe Pole plays Donna Marie and Miss Jones, Danny Knott is Perkins, Jess Smith is Brenda, Timothy Lucas plays Sammy and Alex Harland is a teacher and a policeman.
This stunning cast received a well- deserved standing ovation at the end.
The View from the Stalls - Pete Phillips
It's back again! One of the most enduring and eagerly-awaited musicals has returned to Malvern, a mere two years after it last played to capacity audiences.
And it is proof that some things just don't need to be re-invented or re-imagined or changed for a different generation as this is Willy Russell's stunning Blood Brothers sixth appearances in Malvern in the past few years. The key roles of Mrs Johnstone and son Mickey are also played by the same actors as last time - Niki Colwell Evans and Sean Jones respectively both of whom have now been in the show for many years. Sean Jones in particular has been playing the role of the 7 year old and upwards since 2016, ironically playing a character far younger than his own daughter.
Any show that returns to a theatre again and again and is still a sell-out has to have something going for it. Audiences, many of whom will have seen the show before, genuinely never tire of the show and there was a good number of younger members of the public in the audience seeing this pact with the devil for the first time.
The show unusually starts at the end with two bodies on stage before nipping back to happier if more financially difficult times when Eddie (Joe Sleight), one of the twins, was given away to a childless family on the basis that the secret must never be told. The other twin is Mickey, the shy childish son who remains with his mother, whilst Eddie goes on to live a pampered and privileged life. These must be two of the best roles in show business – who wouldn’t want a part where you can act like 7 year-olds and both of them do it brilliantly and believably (in spite of them being as tall as their mum!) with perfectly contrived mannerisms and the well-observed knockabout behaviour that kids have. Sarah Jane Buckley is Eddie’s new mother and the ever-present harbinger of doom (or at least the truth) is Scott Anson (another actor returning to the role, having done it some 20 years ago). All the singing and the live orchestration is, as you would expect, superb.
The standing ovation and four curtain calls in Malvern no doubt reflect what happens at every venue and deservedly so – Sean Jones in particular looked physically shattered, but happy, when taking the bow - he has the most physically demanding role as 7 year olds have boundless energy!
So why does a musical about a family break-up with absolutely devastating consequences prove to be so popular? Other than the fact that, however many times you have seen it and know exactly how it is going to end, it genuinely pulls at the heart strings and shocks in the final moments, the show’s author Willy Russell describes it perfectly:
"People do see it more than once and one of the reasons is that it is a musical with a strong book, it has got a tale to tell. This might indict it as not being a real musical but if all the electricity fails in the theatre and you can’t light the show or amplify it, you can still do the show with a piano and even if the piano blows, you can still do the show a capella and it will work. It simply relies on the primal, ageless, universal thing of “I’m going to tell you a story”. Your ears prick up and you stay with it and there’s no better experience”
And that is storytelling and theatre at its very best.
Remember. Make a pact with the Devil and the Devil will have your number. Always.
What's on Live Worcestershire - Sue Hull
Starting in the 1950s and journeying through to the 1980s, Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers tells the story of the Johnstone twins, Eddie (Joe Sleight) and Mickey (Sean Jones), who are separated at birth and raised at different ends of the ‘class’ spectrum.
The brothers are brought together by fate at various stages of their lives before meeting their destiny in a tragic finale...
In the more than four decades since it premiered, this legendary Olivier Award-winning ‘play with music’ has enjoyed 25 years in the West End - amassing in excess of 10,000 performances - and numerous national and global tours. Nicknamed ‘the standing ovation musical’, it’s a gold-star classic that continues to perform to sell-out audiences wherever it goes, its combination of humour and heartache seeing it hailed by many as a theatrical masterpiece.
One-time X Factor contestant Niki Colwell Evans is no stranger to the pivotal and iconic part of Mrs Johnstone, and is once again playing the role on this current tour. Her solid performance perfectly showcases the character’s strength and grit but also taps into her vulnerability, leaving the audience in no doubt as to the pain she feels at having to give away one of her twins. Making an impressive performance even better, Colwell Evans’ vocals are absolutely stunning.
The narrator is magnificently played by Scott Anson and does everything expected of him, lurking menacingly and Grim Reaper-like in the shadows and doorways to remind us that it will all end in tears - which, of course, it does!
Whilst there are plenty of laughs to enjoy in the show, many of which are provided by the young Mickey, Eddie and Linda (Gemma Broderick), nothing properly prepares you for the highly emotional final scene.
The production is perfectly cast throughout. Full credit goes to Alex Harland for his instant transformation from posh schoolmaster to harassed state-school teacher, and to Sarah Jane Buckley for her powerful portrayal of the neurotic Mrs Lyons.
Blood Brothers played at Malvern last night to a very appreciative packed house. Whether you’re an avid fan, or are fancying seeing the show for the very first time, don’t leave it too late to purchase your ticket - you might risk missing out on a truly fabulous night of entertainment.
I have seen this show in the West End and at Malvern theatre the performance last night was absolutely fantastic! All of the cast were amazing but Niki who plays Mrs Johnstone was outstanding, her performance was passionate and truly believable, she has an amazing voice too. It made me cry it was executed beautifully. I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys the theatre. Well done to all the cast and behind the scenes it was a perfect night out!
Weekend Notes - Alison Brinkworth
Blood Brothers seems to be on an endless touring cycle around the UK that never ends. I admit I've seen this Willy Russell musical countless times but it always draws me back again and here's why.
I caught award-winning Blood Brothers at Malvern Theatres Malvern Theatres during its week stop off until Saturday January 27 with former X Factor contestant Niki Colwell Evans in the lead role as Mrs Johnstone.
Despite being 40 years old with some very 1980s sounds, there's something so hard-hitting that resonates on a social, political and human level that it's become the epitome of a timeless musical.
Set in Liverpool, the drama starts under the shadow of the Liver Building. With two bodies lying on stage, the menacing narrator in a sharp black suit warns us of much gloom ahead in the tale of the Johnstone twins. We're told how they were 'born and died on the self same day' .
Colwell Evans has experience playing the role of Mrs Johnstone, a single mother living in poverty with a house full of children and two more on the way. That's when she's made an offer she finds hard to refuse by a posh employer, who is desperate to have kids and can offer one of her unborn twins a life she can only dream of.
Colwell Evans has perfected it down to a tee with extra touches of laughs and anguish that bring it to life, alongside the stunning voice that got her noticed on ITV reality show X Factor.
Things get brighter as scenes turn towards the children growing up. Adults Sean Jones and Joe Sleight play twins Mickey and Eddie throughout and their childish antics are packed with humour from Russell's acerbic script.
Tagging along is friend Linda, played by impressive Gemma Brodick, who will be torn between this likeable pair. The whole cast is superb and well-versed in their roles, helping to make it such a slick show that has become a long-standing classic.
After the interval, it moves quickly through the twins becoming adults and there's a stark difference between how their lives and careers progress from different sides of the class divide.
It becomes more and more heart-wrenching and poignant, yet still so relevant after all this time, especially now during the cost of living crisis and when so many are losing their jobs. It's got a strong soundtrack but one of the best is 'Miss Jones', a catchy gritty song about redundancies.
The strongest of all is saved for the tragic finale of 'Tell Me It' s Not True' when I defy anyone not to have a wobbly lip or tear in their eye.
It's a masterful piece of theatre with a scintillating script that toes the line between comedy and tragedy. It still got a standing ovation at Malvern on its opening night after all these years and with a tear rolling down my cheek, I can understand why.
Fairy Powered Productions - Courie Amado Juneau
I narrowly missed seeing Blood Brothers last year so was looking forward to tonight’s performance with great anticipation. The story revolves around a poor mother being in such dire straits that she’s talked into giving one of her newborn twins away. The twins grow up in very different worlds (one rich and one in poverty) but those worlds intersect often as, at the age of nearly 8, they become best friends.
Niki Colwell Evans, playing the twin’s mother Mrs Johnstone, was absolutely sensational. A beautiful singing voice which conveyed every emotion in full straight into ones heart plus acting that was the equal to that incredible voice – she was totally convincing in this marvellous role.
The twins, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Joe Sleight), were astonishingly different and utterly believable, both individually and as a pair. Mickey’s descent was especially compelling and was a sobering reminder of the old adage “there but for the grace of God…”. Linda (Gemma Brodrick) had a pivotal role in the life of the twins and she was simply scintillating on stage. The sheer energy these performers needed to portray the childhood years was staggering – physicality is one thing but the emotional energy needed for act 2 alone must really take its toll! I know it did on me just watching it.
I’ll quickly mention the costumes which deserve a lot of credit for setting the era (and, by extension, showing time passing) and also for highlighting the difference in social classes. In this case clothes do maketh the men (and women).
I was deeply impressed that the book, music and lyrics were all written by Willy Russell. An incredible feat as the tunes are real ear worms. But it’s not just great tunes; there’s a unity throughout the score so I can totally understand why it is billed in the programme as “a Liverpudlian folk opera”. It’s more than just your average musical.
Mrs Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley) and the Narrator (Scott Anson) are worthy of special mention for outstanding performances although, in reality, the entire cast were superb and all added much to the spectacle.
The word “masterpiece” is sometimes liberally thrown around but Willy Russell deserves the accolade for this work. Sadly, the theme of poverty and desperation are just as familiar today – during yet another cost of living crisis – as it was back in the early 80’s. What a sad indictment that is. This is undoubtedly the most powerful musical I’ve ever seen. There’s such honesty and logical integrity here that it’s a painful watch at times, being so brutally honest – but there’s also a lorra lorra laughs (as Cilla would say) from start to finish.
Sometimes a performance ends with you standing dumbfounded and lost for words. This was one of those nights. During the encore the cast all looked totally drained with much puffing of cheeks. If they enjoyed themselves on stage only half as much as we did then they will also have had a fantastic night. I cannot recommend Blood Brothers highly enough. 5 stars does not do it justice. My new guilty pleasure? Not at all – I’m not feeling in the least bit guilty about totally loving it!
Thursday 25th January 14.30 performance of Blood Brothers was definitely the best show we have both ever seen absolutely brilliant Thank You
Absolutely outstanding performance. Captivated from the very beginning. Superb!
Just watched Blood Brothers and first visit to this theatre. Absolutely amazing!!!! We will all be returning for sure!!
Absolutely outstanding performance (25/1/24) Wonderful! Well done and thank you to all concerned 👏👏👏👏
Absolutely amazing AGAIN, we saw the matinee today and there were two large groups of school children, watching their reactions to this incredible play was priceless. I think a few actors weren’t in their usual roles but it was stunning, and to still see Sean jones as Sammy was amazing.