Review: Blood Brothers, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
A gripping story, the catchiest songs and a charismatic cast getting the audience to its feet in one of the most enthusiastic ovations I've seen.
Les Mis might be the musical of the moment but Blood Brothers, showing at The Everyman this week, should be up there with the all time musical greats.
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After more than 10,000 performances the piece, which started life as a small affair to be played in school halls, has now closed in the West End but luckily this deep yet sparklingly funny show lives on in an outstanding production now touring the country.
After twins are separated at birth, one growing up on a council estate and the other receiving private school luxury the other side of the park, the drama delves into big themes from nature, nurture and class to whether maternal love or materialism makes the better parent.
Sean Jones is hilarious then moving as mischievous Mickey whose grubby-kneed, red-Indian playing childhood ends too soon as he learns the harsh realities of life on the dole.
Mark Hutchinson is also more quietly impressive as Edward who, despite wishing he could swear and get his clothes dirty like his friend, reaps the rewards of being middle class until romance and his past catch up with him too.
Mighty-voiced Maureen Nolan is radiant as the mother who has a wealth of love in her heart although she can't find enough pennies in her purse to keep the bailiffs away.
But it's the top quality of the whole cast which made last night's opening performance so good and their chemistry and and evident love for the show are infectious.
Meaty enough to have made it an exam piece yet also both laugh-out-loud funny and tear-jerking, Blood Brothers is as fresh and relevant as it was 30 years ago when Willy Russell (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine), a former hairdresser with one O'level, put pen to paper.
One of the main questions it asks is what's the price for our actions and is it worth paying. A ticket for this run at The Everyman is definitely worth it: go – if you've never seen it before or if you've been half a dozen times as this has got to be among the best yet and, if last night's audience is anything to go by, is sure to leave you singing its numbers all the way home.