Not a dry eye in the house

Blood Brothers 

Wolverhampton Grand 

***** 

WHEN you get a spontaneous standing ovation while the final notes of the final song of a show are still echoing around the theatre then you can take it that you have seen a rather special performance. 

Willy Russell's Liverpool musical is a bit like Les Misérables, which opened in the West End in 1985, two-and-a-half years after Blood Brothers incidentally, they have become theatrical institutions; we all know how good they are when done well and this touring version is very good and very well done. 

There have been some classy names playing Mrs Johnstone over the years, including ex-New Seekers star Lyn Paul (seen left) who played the role in the West End in 1997. Now she is back in the new tour and with her clear, powerful voice makes the role of the tragic mum her own.  

EXPECTING TWINS

Vying with her for honours in this production though is Sean Jones as Mickey who takes us from a hyperactive seven year-old to the pistol toting, shaking, shambling shadow of a man who has destroyed by unemployment, prison and years of anti-depressant drugs in the tragic finale. 

For those who have been off the planet Mrs Johnstone is the salt of the earth mum of seven. She can't stop having children and can't pay her bills so when she is expecting again her husband walks out.

She gets a job as a cleaner for for a posh family and when the lady of the house, Mrs Lyons, who has been unable to have children, finds her cleaner is having twins she persuades her to hand one over to her to raise as her own and the seeds of tragedy are sown. Her promise to let Mrs Johnstone see the child she has named Edward, every day is soon broken as she becomes paranoid about the truth coming out and sacks her cleaner. 

Despite that the twins, Mickey Johnstone and Edward Lyons meet and become best friends, even becoming blood brothers, without ever knowing the truth until the final scene when Eddie, now successful and a city councillor, is confronted by a pistol waving Mickey who has reached rock bottom and can see neither hope nor  a  future.  

Mrs Johnstone tells them they are real brothers not just blood brothers but it is all too late as the best friends born on the same day, die on the same day. Cue lof hankies appearing and shiny eyes as Lyn Paul sings Tell Me Its Not True. 

Paul Davies was a fine Eddie while Kelly-Anne Gower is excellent as Mickey's girlfriend and then wife, Linda while the minor parts are played wonderfully by an enthusiastic cast doubling up. Holding it all together is the narrator Robbie Scotcher. 

There is a reason shows keep going and going and when you see this one you will know why - it is superb. To 22-05-10. 

Roger Clarke

 

Second opinion

*****

AS if by remote control, virtually everyone in the first night audience rose to their feet to give the cast of Willy Russell's magnificent musical a lengthy standing ovation at the finale.

Many were choking back tears, which is hardly surprising after the emotion-charged climax to the story of twin boys, separated at birth and brought up in two vastly different Liverpool environments.

When they meet up by chance, Mickey and Eddie become great friends - even blood brothers - to the concern of their mother and the anguish of the wealthy Mrs Lyons who, desperate for a child, persuaded hard-up mum Mrs Johnstone to part with one of the babes.

It's a show heavily laced with humour but building inevitably to an explosive, heart-breaking finish, and there is a truly wonderful performance from former New Seekers star Lyn Paul (seen right with Sean Jones) as the warm-hearted Mrs Johnstone, mother of seven who is abandoned by her husband when she discovers she is pregnant again, with twins.

Thirteen years after she was invited by director Bill Kenwright to star in the West End production of Blood Brothers, she has joined the touring production, and when she sings Tell Me It's Not True after the lethal shoot-out, there's hardly a dry eye in the house.

Sean Jones excels as the scruffy twin Mickey, with Paul Davies an impressive Eddie, Kelly-Anne Gower is a delight as the girlfriend, Linda, while Graham Martin proves a real hoot as the policeman and teacher.

Robbie Scotcher, however, lacks some of the menace and rasping Scouse accent usually associated with the important role of the Narrator in this stunning musical that runs to May 22.

Paul Marston 

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