Blood Brothers – Review – York Grand Opera House
By Steve Crabtree, October 2019
Willy Russell’s epic Blood Brothers is my favourite musical. Over the last fifteen years I’ve seen it a number of times in places across Yorkshire and in the West End. So when it came to York at the Grand Opera House, how could I resist taking myself along and seeing it for a sixth time?
The story is well known. Set in 60s Liverpool, Mickey Johnson and Eddie Lyons are seven year olds who come across each other by accident, and decide to become best friends. As they do, they find out they were born on the same day and become blood brothers with a prick of the thumb, and a grip of the hand.
“Love of mischief”
They have an inseparable connection, but their mother’s do their utmost to keep them apart because of their differing backgrounds. At least that’s what they tell them anyway.
Mickey and Eddie’s paths keep crossing in childhood. And as they come of age, they share a love of mischief, having fun, and girls. They grow up with friend Linda, who provides to be a love interest throughout their lives, and the trio’s friendship proves to be a mash-up of the happy and disastrous.
And Blood Brothers tonight was as pleasurable to watch as it always has been.
“Gritty, raw drama”
Just what is the attraction of this musical? I think it’s the gritty, raw drama that’s interspersed with light humour, and moments of happiness. Think of a modern day drama like Happy Valley. The two can’t be compared but the plot’s got that kind of earthy, northern feel to it. A realism. And the Blood Brothers story takes you from one extreme to the other in a split second.
Tonight’s dramatic ups and downs were smartly enhanced by a brilliant performance from Robbie Scotcher as the narrator. His menace in Liverpudlian tones, whilst delivering the poetic narrative is a big highlight.
Surprisingly, I didn’t think that Lyn Paul quite shone in the role of Mrs Johnstone. You normally feel uplifted when she’s happy, and empathetic during her sadness. But in the role she made famous – and in this her last ever Blood Brothers tour – something was missing. The Scouse twang was absent for most of the show, although she sang her numbers superbly – and her emotive performance in the final scene was strong.
“A standing ovation”
Joel Benedict’s performance as Eddie was great. Tight, well executed and, in the places it needed to be, very funny. His horse-riding style and the time he insults his mother had the audience roaring with laughter. And when I saw Blood Brothers in Leeds earlier this year, it was Danielle Corlass who stole the show as Linda for me. Once again, she made this role something else – the strongest actor on the stage.
As always, the gunshots (which I know are coming) lifted me out of my seat and nearly sent me forwards three or four rows. And we got the tears from a few around me at the end of the show. The emotion poured out from the stage, and a standing ovation from absolutely everyone at the sombre end to the show confirmed what I already know about this production.
I don’t think I’ll tire of seeing Blood Brothers. It’s a staple part of the touring musical scene nowadays, and long may that continue. A brilliant story, told again in York with style.