BWW Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Imprint Theatreworks
For those in the musical theatre world, you have probably heard of BLOOD BROTHERS, even if you don't really know the music or the plot. It is the third longest-running show in the West End (after Les Miz and Phantom), and played for over 10,000 performances! Imprint Theatreworks has taken on this show as the closer to their season. However, due to weakness in the writing of both the book and the music, it is difficult to imagine this being a smash hit here in the States like it was across the pond.
BLOOD BROTHERS is the tale of two brothers in 1950s Liverpool, separated at birth, raised in different social circles and families of varying degrees of affluence. One (Mickey, played by Jonathan McInnis) grows up in a single-parent household filled with lots of siblings and a mother (Lauren LeBlanc) struggling to support her family. The other (Edward, played by Colin Phillips) is raised in a wealthy, two-parent family where he attends boarding school and gets pretty much everything he wants. How does their environment play a part in who they turn out to be? Well, this story doesn't have a happy ending.
The show itself has several challenges. From the feel of it, Willy Russell, who did the book, music and lyrics, couldn't decide if he was going for a camp/kitsch feel, an episode of the Twilight Zone, or a serious drama about family life. The music, which is extremely ballad-heavy, runs the gamut from the playful "Kids' Game" to the touching "Easy Terms," but the difference is so jarring that it doesn't feel like they belong in the same show. In addition, there is a Narrator (played by Jamall Houston) who wanders through the scenes, not really adding anything other than some foreshadowing, foreboding riffs. The entire piece feels disjointed, the plotline is left with several holes, and it is difficult to connect with the characters.
The production at Imprint Theatreworks does the best they can with this imperfect script. The cast all does a nice job with the vocals, no doubt thanks to Musical Director Scott A Eckert. Their use of a minimal set allows for the imagination to fill in the various locations. Costumes seemed appropriate for the period and location. Some of the technical aspects struggled along with the script, however. The lighting design is full of sudden changes that were jarring at times. The English accents were on and off throughout the production for several of the actors. And the choreography seemed more like an add-on, rather than an artistic piece of the storytelling.
A standout performance is given by Lee Jamison, who plays Mrs. Lyons, mother to Edward. She plays a believable range from sweet and loving to crazy and paranoid, and although she doesn't have many solo moments, she drew the audience's attention any time she was on stage.
BLOOD BROTHERS at Imprint Theatreworks runs Fridays and Saturdays through November 10th, 2018. Tickets and more information can be found at https://imprinttheatreworks.org.