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21 Years Later,Still Putting on a 5 Star Performance at the Phoenix in Blood Brothers

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Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
Blood Brothers

Phoenix Theatre
Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0JP

***** Fiona Mountford's rating
**** Reader rating

Never before have I seen a domino row of hardened critics rise to give a spontaneous standing ovation. Yet this is what they � we � did, along with a rapt and tearful audience, for the gloriously recast Blood Brothers, now celebrating its 21st year in the West End.

The show has suddenly become quite wonderful, and the galvanising factor is the terrific stage debut of Melanie C, previously known as the Spice Girl who could actually sing. I last caught Blood Brothers three years ago, in the middle of a seemingly interminable run of Nolan sisters in the headline role of Mrs Johnstone. Willy Russell�s book, music and lyrics were impassioned, but overall the piece didn�t wear its near three-hour running time particularly lightly.

Now, with the former Spice taking her place on merit rather than reputation to lead an impressively committed cast, it rings out as a rich, detailed and desperately moving piece of work.

The story is probably over-familiar. We�re in Liverpool some time before decimalisation, where struggling single mother Mrs Johnstone (Mel C) agrees to hand over one of her newborn twins to her rich, childless employer Mrs Lyons (Vivienne Carlyle). The boys, Mickey and Eddie (Stephen Palfreman and Richard Reynard), lead parallel lives separated by the great economic divide. A narrator hovers on the edges of Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright�s action, giving a foreboding sense that the iron fist of fate is clenched over it all.

Those expecting chorus lines and show tunes will be disappointed, as Russell concentrates instead on two penetrating musical leitmotifs. The first, Shoes upon the Table, signals superstition and bad luck. The other is Mrs Johnstone�s recurring theme, and uses the heyday and decline of her idol Marilyn Monroe to mirror her own fortunes.

Mel C delicately captures every changing tone, from teenage joy to adult resignation. The range she manages on Easy Terms, a doleful hymn to the �never-never�, is equally admirable.

If we already knew she could sing, we might not have guessed she�d prove this adept at acting.

Yet the arc she traces as the indomitable matriarch is strong and sure, with her climactic anguish so evidently felt that it�s almost unwatchable. If it carries on like this, Blood Brothers could run for another 21 years.

Updated On: 11/13/09 at 10:38 AM
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Broadway Legend
I saw this the other night and whilst it was good it was far from the best i've seen it.

Mel C was alright, her voice was too poppy and her acting just didn't do it for me. She wasn't as motherly as Linda Nolan or the woman I saw last December (Understudy for Nikki Evans, name escapes me).

The Narrator was not a patch on Craig Price.

Mickey and Eddie though were TOP NOTCH!
Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
Is Stephen Parlfman (excuse spelling) still playing Mickey! Best Mickey ever!!!
Jesus Loves You... Everybody else thinks you're an idiot!