Blood Brothers is a certified musical theatre classic, having debuted in the West End 40 years ago. In fact, it had a commendable 24 year run in London and has extensively toured internationally, with no sign of stopping any time soon. This Olivier Award winning musical is particularly poignant in the current cost of living crisis, where families are having to make unimaginable decisions and sacrifices. Still managing to draw audiences in after all these years, I visited Crewe Lyceum to find out why.
In 1960’s Liverpool, poverty-stricken Mrs Johnstone (Niki Colwell Evans) is forced to make the heart-breaking decision to give up one of her twin sons to her rich employer Mrs Lyons (Paula Tappenden), who has struggled to have a child of her own. Growing up in polar opposite socio-economic environments, Micky (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Joe Sleight) experience life from completely different perspectives. This tragic tale proves how social forces can drastically change a person’s life, experiences and opportunities.
You might expect that such a gritty tale would mean Blood Brothers might be overly heavy and potentially glum. However, the book itself is charming and whitty whilst perfectly juxtaposing this against the tough themes covered to perfection.
The fourth wall is broken throughout in rhyme by a narrator character (Richard Munday). While this could have felt laboured it worked seamlessly, moving the story along with a foreboding menace. Likewise, Micky and Eddie being played by the same actors, as both children in Act 1 and adults in Act 2 worked surprisingly well. This casting choice more than pays off as it enables the audience to see, understand and feel their bond throughout. They both add a certain humorous and knowing quality, that only an adult who better understands children could achieve.
Jones has been playing Mickey since 1999, both in the west end and regionally, with this tour being his last performance. His performance still felt fresh, accomplished and was an absolute joy to watch; from his lovable boyish charm at the beginning to his unravelling as the show went on.
Niki Colwell Evans was exceptional as Mrs Johnstone, with a show stealing performance that drew the audience in from the moment she stepped on the stage. Her vocals are stunning and a complete joy to listen to, building emotion by knowing when to hold back and when to give it absolutely everything! Evans gave a performance that the entire audience will never forget.
Loosely based on a play, the script is extremely strong and affecting. This however was not at the expense of Willy Russell’s equally strong music, adding layers of emotion which really packed a punch. The music is memorable and is flawlessly woven in to narrative. The powerful finale of ‘Tell Me It's Not True’ is the performance of the night and is undoubtedly one of the greatest closing numbers in musical theatre history. Blood Brothers is sometimes referred to as ‘the standing ovation musical’ and after this powerful climax it is easy to understand why the entire Crewe Lyceum were on their feet. I personally don’t easily give a standing ovation unless something is truly exceptional and I feel utterly compelled to stand… this was one of those moments.
Blood Brothers has stood the test of time and it’s easy to see why people coming back to this fantastic musical. Although the show stands at just under three hours, the evening flew by in a flash. This quintessentially British musical is not one to miss and is on at Crewe Lyceum until Saturday 18th March 2023. Limited tickets remain, see below for booking information:
Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.