IT has become almost customary for the audience to give the cast of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers a standing ovation - and opening night at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal on Tuesday was no exception.
That’s not to say the praise that is heaped on it is undeserved; the cast had put in a gutsy performance and looked truly exhausted as they came back on stage for their final bow.
Blood Brothers is one of the most popular and uplifting musicals of all time, despite the sense of doom which hangs over the characters.
Set in Liverpool, it tells the story of the Johnstone twins, Mickey and Eddie, who are ‘as like each other as two new pins’.
Their mother Mrs Johnstone has been abandoned by her husband and left to bring up her brood in an impoverished neighbourhood.
When she discovers she is having the twins, Mrs Johnstone is persuaded to give one of them away to her wealthy employer, Mrs Lyons, who cannot have her own children.
But this rash decision haunts Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons as the story veers towards its dramatic climax.
Blood Brothers is a show in which comedy and tragedy fuse perfectly and while it is a gritty tale of poverty, class divisions and lost love, there is also an element of pure escapism of the sort that Mrs Johnstone finds in the films of Marilyn Monroe.
The show also captures the sheer joy of childhood games - but behind the laughter, the menacing narrator continually lurks in the shadows foretelling the fate that awaits the boys.
What makes this musical so successful is the glorious score which features songs such as A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and Tell Me it’s Not True.
All the cast members delivered emotionally charged performances, particularly Maureen Nolan as Mrs Johnstone, whose rich, powerful voice soared through the theatre.
For many of the audience members, myself included, this was not the first time they had seen Blood Brothers. But there is something so compelling about it that makes them come back time and again.
Blood Brothers is on at the Theatre Royal until Saturday. For details visit www.trch.co.uk.
- Review by Catherine Allen