Monday, 17 December 2018

Review: Cheers and tears for an emotional class-ic

CHEERS and a spontaneous standing ovation greeted the cast of Blood Brothers at Windsor’s Theatre Royal

CHEERS and a spontaneous standing ovation greeted the cast of Blood Brothers at Windsor’s Theatre Royal as they took their bows after the emotional finale of the award-winning musical.

It had been a rollercoaster ride for us all but what was amazing was that a good many of the audience were choking back tears or dabbing them from their eyes even as they applauded.

Willy Russell’s musical play is a theatrical phenomenon and is as popular now as it ever was.

Written three decades ago, it ran in the West End for 24 years and in between times has toured extensively in the UK and abroad.

The key to its success is undoubtedly Russell’s writing. It’s raw, uncompromising, full of Scouse humour, and wears its heart on its sleeve without delving into sentimental schmaltz.

The music’s good too, upbeat and visceral, but it’s the story that is key here — a story of class divide, family loyalties and love.

Set in Russell’s native Liverpool, it’s about twin boys, one of whom is given away at birth by his cash-strapped working class single mother to the posh woman whose house she cleans.

The play charts their lives from childhood (when they meet by chance, hit it off and forge their blood brothers bond) through to manhood — and tragedy.

Sean Jones gives an energetic and forceful performance as streetwise Mickey — lured into petty crime, then prison and depression.

Joel Benedict’s well-observed Eddie is the complete antithesis — well-to-do, upright, university-educated and a town councillor. Meanwhile, Danielle Corlass is great as perky Linda, the love interest to both.

Central to it all is Maureen Nolan, the feisty yet tender birth mother Mrs Johnstone, beset by guilt as she struggles to keep the boys’ true relationship a secret.

Throughout it all, Tim Churchill’s narrator (and Mrs J’s conscience) prowls around the stage like an éminence grise — a godlike figure in the shadows.

As tension mounts to the tragic denouement, Nolan leads the show-stopping ensemble number Tell Me It’s Not True, an emotive ending if ever there was.

Until Saturday, then touring.

Review: Carol Evans

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