Willy Russell’s iconic Blood Brothers has been a staple in the West End since its debut in 1983, and nearly 40 years later, it continues to captivate audiences across the UK with its current tour. Despite its long-standing success, the question remains: can this touring production live up to the standards set by the West End original?
The show, which began as a school play, tells the heart-wrenching tale of twin brothers separated at birth and raised in very different social classes. The cast must embody children as young as seven, requiring exceptional versatility and acting ability from the adult performers.
Several members of the West End production have returned for the tour, including Niki Evans in the role of Mrs Johnstone. Evans first played the character in 2008, and her performance in this production is nothing short of remarkable. Her portrayal of the character’s anguish at the show’s climax is a testament to her acting ability and one of the most genuine portrayals of pain witnessed on stage. Sean Jones, who has played the role of Mickey on and off for 20 years, effortlessly transitions between portraying a child, a teenager, and a troubled adult. Joel Benedict gives an equally wonderful performance as Eddie, the other twin, and their chemistry is undeniably the centerpiece of the tragedy.
The entire cast’s exceptional vocal abilities are showcased in the show’s closing number, “Tell Me It’s Not True,” and the repeated use of “Marilyn Monroe” throughout the show is both clever and catchy. The set design is interactive and effectively transforms the setting as the Johnstone and Lyons families move houses.
The script is a clever balance of humor and darkness, and the cast’s portrayals of young children are particularly noteworthy. The show raises thought-provoking ethical questions, and its ending remains as soul-destroying and horrifying as ever.
Despite its long history, Blood Brothers remains relevant and impactful, and this touring production is a testament to that fact. In fact, one could argue that the show’s long absence from London has made it even more raw and important. This production is every bit as incredible as the West End original, and it would be a disservice to dismiss it as anything less.
Blood Brothers has rightfully earned its place as one of the greatest shows in musical theatre history, and this production only solidifies its legacy. It is a must-see for both longtime fans and newcomers to the show. If the rumors are true, and it does return to the West End in the future, it will undoubtedly continue to captivate audiences for years to come.