Blood Brothers

“Have you heard the story of the Johnstone twins…”, an opening monologue providing a poetic back story of Blood Brothers, a show that has been delighting and devastating audiences in equal measures since 1983. This story of a pair of twins separated at birth where one has a life of privilege and the other a more non materialistic way of life, still packs a punch, leaving you reaching for the tissues by its dramatic and emotionally fuelled finale.

As this current tour ends its run at the Birmingham Hippodrome this week, I really could not resist revisiting a show that I consider an old friend. It never disappoints, makes me laugh and cry, well sob, and really does throw every single emotion your way. This is down to the incredible cast who give their all night after night.

I think I’ve seen this show nearly 10 times and throughout this time my Mickey has always been Sean Jones, a man who quite literally bears his soul and delivers one of the most heart wrenching performances I’ve ever seen. During the first half, Sean is a delight as he works his way through various ages, from 7 (nearly 8), to a rather randy teenager dealing with girls and growing up. For someone who has been performing in the same role for many years, it still feels like a fresh and energetic performance with many hilarious moments as a child, which escalate into grown up agony during the second half. It’s always been a pleasure to see Sean in this role, and this time was no different.

Playing Mrs Johnstone, the working class Liverpudlian mother who makes the unthinkable decision to give away one of her babies is Niki Colwell Evans. Having also seen Niki in this role before, it felt as though her performance was much more comfortable and confident, and of course the vocals speak for themselves as magnificent. They are many highlights musically, including ‘Marilyn Monroe’, ‘Easy Terms’ and of course the iconic ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ which quite literally brings the house down. It’s hard to describe the power and emotion displayed during this moment, but I felt totally breathless and exhausted by the end and you can see how much this particular moment impacts the whole cast. Nikki is a force to be reckoned with in this role.

There are no weak links in this show, Joe Sleight as Eddie Lyons offered up the ‘posh boy’ persona perfectly, with plenty of humorous moments. The chemistry between Sleight and Jones is truly believable. Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons expertly portrays a woman unable to conceive but willing to put a price on having what she wants. The detail of emotional breakdown throughout the show is testament not only to great writing by Willy Russell, but Buckley  who fully takes us on the journey with her. Gemma Brodrick as Linda, Mickey’s childhood friend turned wife also displays a wide range of humour to heartbreak so beautifully.

The show is narrated by Scott Anson who is seen as the conscience of some of the characters, be that the devil, or the voice of reason. The inclusion of the narrator who stands on stage watching the action unfurl and interjecting on occasion, provides quite a haunting vibe and Anson commanded the stage well.

The orchestra under the musical supervision of Matt Malone provided a wonderful sound throughout the evening, playing some of the most familiar musical theatre tunes known to audiences, with a mix of upbeat and dramatic music.

For those of a nervous disposition, be warned there are a few gunshots at the end of the show, which even though I know they are coming, make me jump every single time! The impact these shots had on me last night were intense, and have clearly been ramped up for new audiences.

As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of Blood Brothers and every opportunity I get to see it, I will grab with both hands. The whole cast and crew go above and beyond to provide a memorable show, so if you’ve never seen it, or just want to go again, I would wholeheartedly recommend getting whisked away on the emotional rollercoaster that is Blood Brothers.

This show was reviewed on the 30th April 2024 at Birmingham Hippodrome where it runs until the 4th May 2024.  Tickets available here: Blood Brothers – Birmingham Hippodrome

Review written by Emma Rowley


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