Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Blood Brothers - Theatre Royal, Brighton

Blood Brothers
Book, Music and Lyrics: Willy Russell
Directors: Bob Tomson & Bill Kenwright

Reviewer: Howard Holdsworth

In a production performed to celebrate its 25th anniversary this great musical proved that it has truly stood the test of time. A musical, which, although it has its light and very funny moments, is based around misery and despair should not really manage to bring a whole auditorium to its feet. But it did. This has happened for a quarter of a century in the West End, on Broadway and around the world. Tonight was to be no exception for this production really did do justice to the vision and the message of Willy Russell’s musical.

At the very core of the show was a simply mind-blowing performance from Lyn Paul. In a role which is just about as far removed as you can get from performing “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” at The White House for Nixon’s inauguration she excelled from the moment she took to the stage. It is 12 years since she was invited to take the starring role of Mrs Johnstone by Bill Kenwright in the London production, but she made the transition back into the role tonight seem effortless. She was utterly convincing both with the spoken word and with her singing which was flawless and deeply moving. In another time and another place she would be weighed down by “gongs”.

Sean Jones (Mickey) and Simon Willmont (Eddie) both gave beautifully crafted performances as the twins from the different side of the tracks. One of the great strengths of this particular production was the way that the cast took on the task of growing from children of 7 to grown adults in their late twenties. The youthful moments provided particular fun and sparkle for the audience, who were quick to show their admiration for the energy and wit of Jones and Willmont and of Anna Sambrooks (Linda) and Daniel Taylor (Sammy).

There was a highly impressive performance from Paula Tappenden (Mrs Lyons) who managed to show a range of emotions whilst living on the edge. The glue of the show was provided by Robbie Scotcher as the Narrator. This device can backfire if not handled well, but Scotcher has a fine singing voice to support his clear spoken delivery.
The actors found themselves working in an ensemble which showed real unity of purpose. The skilful scene changes were deftly done and were supportive of the clearly defined central set, which served for backstreet, playground, upmarket townhouse and countryside, all supported with an evocative backdrop of Liverpool.

Under the supervision of Musical Director, Kelvin Towse, the multi-talented 8 piece ensemble was note perfect, which reflected what was happening on stage where the cast was both word and note perfect throughout.This is an excellent production of a deeply moving musical which you must see if you can grab the chance.

Runs until Sat 14th Nov
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