If you a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have figured out that I am a musicals fan which I inherited from my Mum.
And on discussing our mutual love of musicals from a recent trip to the theatre, I also came to the conclusion that my favourite musicals tend to be the sad ones – Evita, dead from the start; King and I, dies at the end; Les Mis, pretty much everyone dies.
It is not surprising then that Blood Brothers which is playing at the Oxford New Theatre this week has quickly joined the ranks of my favourites, not just for the amazing score from Willy Russell but (mild spoiler) everyone dies (you do find this out from the very beginning!)
Blood Brothers is the story of Mrs Johnstone, a single mother to seven kids living in the back-to-back social housing in Liverpool, who discovers she’s due not one extra baby but two. Mrs Lyons, from the posh family who employs ‘Mrs J’ as their cleaner, desperate for a baby of her own, offers to take one of the twins when born.
A pact on the bible is made and we see what becomes of the Johnstone twins. It’s a story of different social classes and nature vs. nurture – as Willy Russell says ‘if she’d picked the other one out of the pram, would it have been any different?’
This production directed by Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson, sees Mrs Johnstone played by Linzi Hateley, an Olivier award winner and overall theatre stalwart, and she gives a heart-breaking performance, swelling to the climax for the show’s most well-known number, ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’.
Robbie Scotcher, plays the prophetic, doom-peddling narrator, a constant reminder to characters, Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, of the pact they made and the guilt they carry.
The twins are played by the same actors all the way through, behaving as seven-year-olds in the first half, and moving through as teenagers and then to adulthood in the second acts.
Sean Jones (playing Mickey Johnstone), who seemed really familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on where from, was really engaging; a funny seven-year-old morphing into the tragic ex-con twin – a victim of unemployment, high crime levels and low self-esteem. The pathos was almost palpable, I loved every minute!
Mark Hutchinson playing Mickey’s twin, Eddie, has a long association with Blood Brothers having placed Eddie in the West End, on tour in Toronto and Broadway.
To be honest, every member of the current cast has quite a background with Blood Brothers, having either appeared in previous UK and international tours or in the West End or Broadway. It makes for a gripping show, which had everyone on their feet at the end.
You can still catch the current tour in Oxford until 1st December 2018 and then keep an eye out for dates via: http://www.bloodbrothersmusical.com/