Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers has gained legendary status in the world of theatre, so you know you’re in treat before you’ve even sat down in Oxford’s recently reopened New Theatre.
Set on the streets of Liverpool, twins Mickey (Alex Patmore) and Eddie (Joel Benedict) are separated at birth, living on opposite sides of the tracks – their prospects worlds apart. The plot explores the sometimes drastic consequences of our choices, alongside themes of nature vs nurture, class differences, inequality and superstition.
Boasting a stellar cast, they of course do not disappoint. Take Lyn Paul who first took on the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone in the West End in 1997, for example. Rising to fame in the 1970s in The New Seekers, she has performed with some of the best, and been voted as the definitive Mrs Johnstone by Blood Brothers fans.
“the entire cast singing together makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck – the sheer power of their voices coming together truly exhilarating”
Having regularly reprised the role over the last 20 years, this is her farewell tour – and you could spot how much this means to her, her star power shines fiercely for all to see, her voice showing strength and vulnerability, standing out even among the sea of powerful theatre voices. Watching her perform feels quite remarkable.
The omniscient Narrator (Robbie Scotcher) is ever present and able to switch from brash centre of attention to an almost ghostly figure lurking in the background in seconds.
Matt Slack as Teacher/Policeman was particularly brilliant at quickly changing into different characters to great comic effect, lightening the mood just when it’s needed.
As well as the incredible performances by the leads Alex Patmore and Joel Benedict, credit must also be given to Danny Taylor as Sammy and Danielle Corlass as Linda for the way they transitioned through the tale from cheeky youngsters to grown-ups with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
All four tackle the task of playing young children though to adults with great gusto.
“The prolonged standing ovation filled with whoops and cheers felt charged with emotion”
It’s a long show at 2 hours 50 minutes including the interval, yet your attention never wavers.
Slightly cheesy and over the top at times, as only a musical can be, the dramatic score and sound effects kept us entranced, and the entire cast singing in the last scene makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck – the sheer power of their voices coming together truly exhilarating.
I glimpse Lyn wiping away tears as she takes a well-deserved bow. The prolonged standing ovation filled with whoops and cheers felt charged with emotion, the audience still clapping after the wonderful cast had left the stage.
On until Saturday, this is a classic that theatre lovers won’t want to miss. Tickets and details at https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/blood-brothers/new-theatre-oxford/