Blood Brothers – Review – Leeds Grand (2019)
Blood Brothers – Review
Leeds Grand Theatre, May 2019
by Steve Crabtree – @stevecrab
It’s a staple part of the British musicals scene and the now classic Blood Brothers is enjoying a two week stint at Leeds Grand Theatre. This pleases me greatly.
It’s a show that people seem to adore when they’ve seen it. And you can include me in that group. The gritty, yet emotionally charged production is one of those you look out for, so when it comes around again you’re one of the first to grab a ticket.
In Blood Brothers, Willy Russell takes us to Liverpool and follows the story of Mickey Johnstone (Alexander Patmore) and Eddie Lyons (Joel Benedict). Twins to cleaner Mrs Johnstone (Linzi Hateley) who has to give one of them up at birth before the welfare get on to her. This opens up quite the powerful story of two lads, their families and their friends; and can quite easily be heralded a drama over a musical.
As the lights go down, we’re given an emotional glimpse in to the outcome of Blood Brothers. I didn’t see tears in the Grand Theatre at the start of this performance, but it’s not unknown for people to cry during the opening of the show.
The now classic Blood Brothers takes us on an up and down journey through class Britain. Mickey and Eddie are brought up in different sides of this spectrum but become best friends and unaware of their true connection.
It’s a gritty story. But at the same time a lovely one. And so clever is the writing that it grips you. Then it thrills you. And just when you think the plot is turning in to a sunny, happy tale a dark side crashes down on to us with a thump. Narrator Robbie Scotcher does his bit to re-enforce the hard-hitting mood.
And what I take from this great show now is that there’s a stark difference in what happens in society today, from what it was like forty years ago.
“Brilliant comedy, and superb dark undertones”
Tonight is the fifth time I’ve seen Blood Brothers and I warm to it more each time I see it. I particularly like Hateley’s portrayal of Mrs Johnstone, with her vocal range impressing. Her rendition of ‘Marilyn Monroe’ in the the opening scene is testament to this.
I must say that Patmore’s performance as Mickey is the finest I’ve seen to date as well. His journey from nearly eight-year-old Mickey to adult Mickey is covered in brilliant comedy, and superb dark undertones.
But you can shower the entire cast with praise. Joel Benedict serves up a very good Eddie, especially as an impressionable seven-year old. But for me, it was Danielle Corlass who shone in the role of Linda. Returning to the role, she was astounding as giggly child, teenage sex-bomb and weary, pained adult. It’s a part that hadn’t made its mark on me as much before, but Corlass certainly brought the character to my attention tonight.
“Much deserved standing ovation”
As we approach the end of Blood Brothers, the final scene draws you in. You’re in the audience for over two hours, being pulled in all directions by this story and growing up with these boys. But you hold your breath as Mickey and Eddie’s friendship is at breaking point. And ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’, performed by Mrs Johnstone and the full company is a beautiful ending. As usual, the cast take a subdued bow at the final curtain, and receive a much deserved standing ovation from Leeds.
Blood Brothers is a show that will always pack a punch. Its ability to entwine drama, comedy and tragedy will always be welcome on the stage, and this tour of Blood Brothers is certainly one of the strong ones. And that’s saying something.