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Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Chateau de Karreveld

Part of Bruxellons! Festival

Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Chateau de Karreveld

After a cancelled season, Bruxellons! Festival briefly decided to go ahead with what for francophones will be a delicious discovery of a show, despite production uncertainties and a lack of support from the Belgian government. How brave! We have to be thankful to them for the bold choice of presenting a British musical which, in spite of being the third longest running in London, right after Phantom and Les Miz, is totally unknown in the French-speaking world.

Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Chateau de Karreveld The score by British pop composer Willy Russell has its moments and is very much in the vein of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals during his 80s moment of glory. But, like all long-running musicals', its appeal lies more in a very strong story with basic emotions, which everybody, not just musical theater afficionados, can relate to.

The story about fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie, separated at birth, who are raised in opposing social environments, one in a wealthy family, the other in a poor one takes the twins down different paths into adulthood, one becoming a councilor, the other unemployed and eventually imprisoned. Their bloodlines unknown to them, the twins are nonetheless, and strangely enough, neighbors and friends as boys, after which time one moves away. But fate entangles the two again as adults when they both fall in love with the same girl, causing a rift in their recently rekindled friendship and leading to their tragic deaths.

Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Chateau de Karreveld Based on a one-act play that Russell read in his childhood about two babies switched at birth and first developed as a school play in Liverpool, Blood Brothers, in line with the almost sung-through Lloyd Webberism of the times, is almost more of a play with music than a musical in the way that the songs, sometimes a little scarce, do not necessarily move the plot forward. The constant references to Marilyn Monroe in the lyrics seem a bit odd and repetitive, but they remind us that the action is set in the early 60s, although the beautiful sets by Cécile Balate and costumes by Béatrice Guilleaume could well be timeless.

The direction by Jack Cooper is very sharp and swift moving, keeping the action going and the audience attentive throughout the two hours and forty-five minutes.

Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Chateau de Karreveld

As always in the Bruxellons! Productions, the casts of principals, and even the ensembles, are high caliber. Léovanie Raud gives a multilayered performance as the guilt-ridden mother, Mrs. Johnstone. Soon to be seen at the Châtelet in Cole in Paris, Perrine Delers is quite believable as the evil Mrs. Lyons. Didier Colfs is almost disturbing as the narrator commenting on the action in a way reminiscent of Che in Evita (a part sometimes played by Willy Russell himself). Bruxellons! veterans Damien Locqueneux and Jeremy Petit (who already played in Tintin the musical at the age of fifteen), assume the highly difficult task of portraying children, managing to magically age over the course of the play up to the murder-climax. They both deliver superb performances, overshadowing their somehow bland love interest Linda, played by Lucie de Grom.Review: BLOOD BROTHERS at Chateau de Karreveld

Steve De Schepper is quite effective as Mr. Lyons, as is Baptiste Blampain as the no-good brother Sammy.

Despite the sudden lack of government funding and broken promises, producer Olivier Moerens refused to go cheap with tracks and insisted on using an excellent 12-piece orchestra conducted by Laure Campion. Along with the cast of 18 onstage, this makes for a big production of a rich work deserving of several viewings. Despite its 17-year run in London and its two years on Broadway, I must admit that it's the first time that I've seen this musical and so may lack in perspective, but the book and lyrics, adapted into French by Catherine Marcangeli and Stéphane Laporte, have given me a good understanding of this very British work.

With the decline of musical classics being produced around the world, it is always refreshing to discover a new, not-so-often-done, one. So, after Blood Brother, playing until early September at the Chateau de Karreveld, we are looking forward to the first French version of the German smash Elisabeth next summer.

From This Author - Patrick Honoré

Patrick Honoré runs the magazine and has been a musical theater critic for 15 years, sarting as the French Musical Corespondant for the paper edition of Musical Stages in Lon... (read more about this author)

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