Review: Blood Brothers – Truly Gripping 5*

Photo by Jack Merriman

Now in its 34th year, the fantastic Blood Brothers musical opened this evening at Regent Theatre. The play and score written by legendary writer Willy Russell (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine, Our Day Out plus many others) is an analysis of nature versus nurture as well as an important social study of the era.

Set in 1980’s Liverpool amongst the height of Thatcher’s power in office, the plot centres around twins Eddie and Mickey who are separated at birth, with one growing up in a wealthy family, the other in poverty. Firm friends and ‘blood brothers’, but never learning the true reality of their relationship until its fateful finale. Later as adults, the cracks of the different class to which they now belong start a spiral of unforgettable events where the opposing brothers’ social status is the catalyst for their demise. Its not just the writing that is gripping, it has a fantastic score including ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’.

Now in its autumn tour X Factor finalist Niki Colwell Evans stars as Mrs Johnstone, along with other returning cast members Sean Jones (Mickey), Paula Tappenden (Mrs Lyons), Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons), Carly Burns (Linda), Grace Galloway (Donna Marie/Miss Jones), Josh Capper (Neighbour), Melissa Potts (Brenda), Andy Owens (Perkins), Jacob Yolland (Postman/Bus Conductor) and Nick Wilkes (Policeman/Teacher).

New additions to the cast are Richard Munday, who previously played the role of Mickey in the West End production of Blood Brothers, as Narrator. Jay Worley (Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist) stars as Eddie and Timothy Lucas (Cilla the Musical) as Sammy.

The tone set from the offing, with the opening scene being one of tragedy, a mother crying and two bodies covered, the audience were completely gripped. Like a foreboding spectre, the narrator (Richard Munday) is there during the background throughout the play, breaking the fourth wall with constant warning of impending tragedy.

Nicki Colwell Evans as Mrs. Johnstone is truly fantastic, her voice note perfect and portrays the angst of her character trying to provide for her family and keeping debtors from the door. Her backstory unfolds during ‘Marilyn Monroe’ as a 17 year old swept off her feet, her beauty described by her soon-to-be husband, suddenly finding herself devoid of romance, with 7 children (plus twins on the way) and now the same husband has left her for a woman who some say resembles ‘Marilyn Monroe’. The audience empathising with her situation, giving away one of her twin sons, watch on as she tries to negotiate the hard life she has now found herself in, trying in vein to make sure her children follow a different life path.

Sean Jones and Jay Worley are brilliant as Mickey and Eddie, they were the source of amusement in the first half, playing the boyhood versions of their characters with aplomb and demonstrating all of the child-like innocence which saw true friendship crossing social barriers that only seem to exist in adulthood. Sean’s immense later portrayal of a tormented man finding his existence is in direct contrast to Eddie who still retains that childhood innocence of University partying, whilst he is jobless and a father in waiting. As Eddie’s star continues to rise, thus in direct contrast, does Mickey’s torment grow with his path in life.

Paula Tappenden excellently plays Mrs Lyons, Eddie’s adoptive mother. A woman who believes she has all she desires, only to be constantly haunted by both her own actions and the fact that Eddie and Mickey’s path seem to be intertwined. Her grip on reality loosening, she starts into motion the cataclysmic events of her son’s demise. Paula stars alongside Staffordshire’s Tim Churchill as her husband, ignorant of his wife’s deception and effectively an unwitting passenger of the events that follow.

Carly Burns portrayal of Linda was also excellent, again playing a childhood version of her character, in direct contrast to then her fate as an adult and how she was the fulcrum in which Mickey’s fragile state of mind was precariously balanced.

It is truly an excellent production, the audience in full agreement with the entire auditorium giving a standing ovation. It has humorous moments, touching moments, empathetic moments and tragic moments. It certainly was the only thing we were talking about in our car ride home, discussing who were the victims, were they all victims somehow? It certainly is a play that you will be talking about for hours/days afterwards.

The production runs until Saturday with Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees in addition to the regular evening performance. Click here to get tickets