BWW Reviews: BLOOD BROTHERS, New Wimbledon Theatre, October 14 2013
When you could pay £1 as a student on a Monday night, I saw Blood Brothers at The Liverpool Playhouse very early in its run and thought it was sentimental tosh, ruthlessly manipulative and quite definitely too much for the sophisticates of London. Like the man who turned down The Beatles, I was wrong.
Except I wasn't really. Blood Brothers is all that, and then some, but it's also musical theatre, and, now I'm not too cool for school (actually, too fat for stalls is closer to the truth), I can see why Blood Brothers is such a huge hit. The tale of the twins, separated at birth, whose lives twist round each other, as they travel through life on opposite sides of the tracks, has a Dickensian trajectory to it, a universality in its appeal - it's a big old weepy. It's funny and sad and poignant and coarse and tender and corny and, above all else, emotional - and it connected with every single person in the audience, from teen to grandad.
As matriarch of an unruly brood, Maureen Nolan captures a life of drudgery shot through with working class warmth - not as easy as it sounds, especially with the likes of me (who knows something of that kind of life) to appease. She sings well too, and even does a bit of dancin' when she's in the mood for it. Olivia Sloyan as Linda, the femme fatale of Skelmersdale, is perfectly cast - sexy, but down to earth, seductive, but not suggestive. If the support cast deliver (and they should, as some will have studied Blood Brothers in school, so established has Willy Russell's work become in the canon) the twins at the heart of the story have to convince for the conceit to hold. And they do.
With Narrator Warwick Evans a menacing presence despite the twee rhyming couplets - he knows how it finishes after all - Sean Jones is all energy as the scally Mickey, a good kid whom the cruelties of Liverpool's economy (or non-economy) of the 70s and 80s first mocks and then destroys. Mark Hutchinson's Eddie is a slower burn, but no less powerful for that, a Tim Nice-but-not-really-Dim who tries to do the best thing, as he is torn between nature and nurture, the mother whom he needs and the mother who needs him. Both lads get plenty of ooohs and ahhhs from the teens in the audience - and a few from those well past their teens too.
It's a long show - you won't get much change out of three hours - but the songs are fantastic, much better than I recall from that distant first exposure. Most importantly, we love these lads, even as their destiny rushes up to meet them. Of course it's nonsense - but it's bloody entertaining nonsense, and it delivers value for money, night after night. Chances are that somebody, at some point, has told you to see Blood Brothers - there's a reason why. Pitch up and find out.