Blood Brothers is an enduring piece of musical theatre.
It stands alone as a cracking piece of entertainment, with an emotional storyline and haunting music. But it can also be viewed as an allegory of the English class system, posing the nature v nurture question about a child’s development.
I saw BB again last weekend at the intimate White Rock theatre in Hastings, thanks to Kev & Debbie Lance.
I rarely see movies, plays or musicals twice. This was the third time I’d seen BB, but enjoyed every minute of it, all over again. Like pulling on a favourite old jumper found in the corner of wardrobe after a few years, scrunched up between that sweatshirt you got on holiday in 1992 and those M&S budgie-smugglers with the perished elastic.
Mind you, the first two viewings were a lifetime ago, in the 1980s. With Kiki Dee and then with Barbara Dickson in the central female role of Mrs Johnstone, mother of the fated brothers. This time Maureen Nolan performed the role admirably. And Marti Pellow – of Wet Wet Wet fame – played the narrator, the pivotal male role.
Written and composed by Willy Russell, BB tells the sorry tale of twin brothers Mickey & Eddie, born in Liverpool in the early 1960s. But Mrs Johnstone already has 7 other kids, her feckless husband has gone and she’s struggling to make ends meet in poverty-stricken Scouseland. So she gives one of the twins away to Mrs Lyons, a posh lady for whom Mrs J cleans, and who is desperate for a child of her own.
The music weaves its magical way around the evolving storyline as the boys’ lives move in socially disparate directions. They also fall in love with the same girl, their lives ending in inevitable tragedy. Inevitable because the opening scene tells of their simultaneous deaths, just as they were born together.
Written originally as a school play, BB went on to be performed more than 10,000 times in London, the 3rd longest-running musical production in West End history.
It finally ended its run at the Phoenix Theatre in November 2012, but lives on, thanks to a national tour throughout 2015.