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Chris High review: Blood Brothers  at the Liverpool Empire Theatre

Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers"

Lyn Paul, Stephen Palfreman, Craig Whiteley, Joanne Zorian, Keith Burns, Louise Clayton, Daniel Taylor, Jason Griffiths, Matt Slack, Chloe Taylor,
Tom Lorcan, Karl Greenwood, Lisa Taylor Roberts, Patrick Taggart
Directors: Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright
Musical Supervisor: Rod Edwards
Liverpool Empire Theatre
18th April 2006

Willy Russell's Blood Brothers 2006: promotional image


CLICK HERE to view the latest review of Blood Brothers 2008

Some shows are great, others superlative and yet others unforgettable. On very rare occasions, shows are all three of these and more. Step forward Blood Brothers and take a bow.

Twenty-three years on from a first appearance in its native city, Willy Russell's musical masterpiece returned to a thunderous welcome and a high-octane performance of laughter and tears from all those concerned.

In this reworking of a familiar tale of twins separated at birth, one going to a rich family with the other being destined to remain a slum kid, Lyn Paul, who with The New Seekers wanted to teach the world to sing, was incredible in the lead role of Mrs. Johnstone. With a dry humour that dipped to the point of desert dust and a heartbreaking poignancy of an Eric Segal novel, hers was a performance that sparkled from first to last.

The opening number, Marilyn Monroe, was just an appetiser of things to come, as she wove her magic through everything she did with grace, power and controlled acting that underlined her obvious talents. It was, however, the show's highlight tune - Tell Me It's Not True - that finally broke the banks of emotion and so brought the audience to its feet in rapturous appreciation.

But this was not just about the star. The supporting cast, and most notably Stephen Palfreman as the urchin-child, Mickey, was boyishly roguish as a child and tear-jerkingly sublime as the troubled adult trapped in a life wasted by circumstance; no job, no money and a wife and child to support, most of which coming to pass through little fault of his own.

Craig Whitely, as rich-kid-wannabe-scruff Eddie, was Palfreman's perfect foil in his ability to mimic everything with all the classic timing of an actor three-times his age and experience, whereas Louise Clayton's playing of Linda, the object of both Mickey and Eddie's desires, is sexy, sassy and sentimental enough in all the right places for the audience to feel nothing but sorrow and empathy for her.

Keith Burns, as the conscientious narrator hardly left the stage and was deliciously spectral in his foretelling of doom at every turn, whereas Daniel Taylor, as Mickey's nemesis brother Sammy, was both repugnant as a child and evil as an adult to reach the point of slapping satisfaction. Everybody, everywhere, knows somebody like Sammy.
Underscored by fantastic sets, costumes, faultless choreography, exceptional scripting and timeless music, Blood Brothers should take its place at the high table of British musicals with pride. More than being just another musical, this is a social commentary that will surely remain, simply, timeless.

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