Blood Brothers

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Previewed 21 July 1988, opened 28 July 1988, closed 16 November 1991 at the Albery Theatre in London
Transferred 21 November 1991, closed 10 November 2012 at the Phoenix Theatre in London

Willy Russell's classic musical Blood Brothers is set in Liverpool and is about twins separated at birth but whose paths cross in later life. Contains the haunting song 'Tell Me It's Not True'.

So did y' hear the story of the Johnstone twins? As like each other as two new pins. Of one womb born, on the self same day, how one was kept and one given away? An' did you never hear how the Johnstones died, never knowing that they shared one name, Till the day they died, when a mother cried, 'my own dear sons lie slain'. An' did y' never hear of the mother so cruel, there's a stone in place of her heart? Then bring her on and come judge for yourselves, how she came to play this part.

PLEASE NOTE: The recommended age for children for this show is 12 years and above.

"21 years young and still match fit thanks to the arrival of former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm (Mel C). She scores brilliantly in the central role of the Scouse single mother Mrs Johnstone. Struggling with five children, she finds she's expecting twins, so she gives one to the middle-class, childless woman whose house she cleans. The stage is haunted by the fateful black-suited figure of the Narrator, a sort of Greek Chorus, delivering doom-laden news bulletins. That may sound fancy. It's not. Willy Russell's gutsy folk-opera couldn't be more down-to-earth, weaving the mythic and epic with social realism. The twins are brought up in Liverpool on different sides of the tracks: Mickey on Linacre Street (homage to Gary) and Eddie on posh Peele Street (homage to John). Bill Kenwright never wastes an opportunity to make his production a love-letter to Liverpool - Everton is graffitied on a wall. The boys know nothing of their true relationship but are drawn to one another, and the truth eventually comes out in the devastating denouement. There's been no shortage of star singers - Kiki Dee, Linda Nolan, Barbara Dickson, Petula Clark, Lyn Paul, Helen Reddy - queuing to play the part of Mrs Johnstone. Mel C is the first real Liverbird. Beleaguered but bearing up, she fills Russell's forlorn melodies and hopeful ballads with heart and soul. The cast is also on terrific form and bursting with vigour... There's wonderful warmth and comedy in the scenes in which the Linacre Street urchins teach Eddie to swear and shoot with a toy gun. If you haven't seen it, treat yourself. If, like me, you're word perfect, go again." The Mail on Sunday

"Far from running out of steam. Bob Tomson's production has a full head of steam as it goes into its second decade... Russell is better known as a playwright, and his dialogue - unlike that of several recent musicals - does more than just mark time between songs. The two complement one another: Russell's anatomising of the poverty trap, for example, is impressively economical only because his dialogue shares the burden of its illustration with some uncommonly expressive songs." The Observer

"I have always been faintly puzzled by the intended level of Willy Russell's musical melodrama about twins Liverpool brothers separated as babies whose paths cross in a friendship and finally bloodshed. A plot that no sophisticated audience since 1890 could take seriously is unfolded... presumably serious overtones - poverty, inner city deprivation, economic pressures on morality - are drowned by gallumphing facetiousness, banal pop settings and sheer bathos. These depressing characteristics notwithstanding, the show in back in the West End after a nationwide tour... Bob Tomson directs on Marty Flood's set, and everything is toe-curlingly lovable." The Financial Times (1988)

"In 1983 this ineffably sentimental musical won four awards for being best of brand that year. Here it comes again, book, lyrics and music all by Willy Russell, harping on about Fate and Class, and telling the sob story of the Johnstone twins... The music is on the doleful side, amplified so that all songs sound equally loud. A portentous Narrator prowls the stage and finally identifies the unjustness of Fate with the English class system. I am bound to record that at the final curtain the stalls rose and gave vent to grateful cheers that could still be heard as I fled shuddering to the Underground." The Times (1988)

"A late nineteenth century melodrama has flounced into town, masquerading as a thoroughly modern musical. Can Willy Russell's Blood Brothers really have been written in the here and now? Are there really people abroad, not to mention London, who can take the lumbering hocus-pocus, with cruel necessity sundering twin brothers at birth, and Destiny striking them down together 25 years later? Well, yes and yes... The lyrics, often mere doggerel, and the music, shades, echoes and recollections of Pink Floyd and Dire Straits on piano, keyboards, synthesiser and guitar, is pleasing in its ominous and atmospheric if rather bland manner. And Easy Terms is a beautiful, ironic lament upon the ugly ways of the materialist, consumer England." The Guardian (1988)

Blood Brothers the Musical was originally seen in London at the Lyric Theatre where it previewed from 7 April 1983, opened 11 April 1983 and closed 22 October 1983. The show was then revived in London previewed from 21 July 1988, opened 28 July 1988, closed 16 November 1991 at the Albery Theatre before transferring to The Phoenix Theatre from 21 November 1991 to 10 November 2012.