Bill Kenwright's production of Blood Brothers seems to be constantly touring the UK. Some may say a little too often but with Birmingham Hippodrome packed to the rafters last night and the reaction that the show received, there is still obviously a high demand for the production.
As surprising as it may be, this was my first viewing of Blood Brothers. In all of the many years that it has been in the West End, and more recently touring, it has somehow slipped through the net for me. Many of the musical numbers are iconic and are therefore are widely known. Also the show makes no pretence about how the story ends as the production opens with a future event. Willy Russell's writing is great and as a whole production works extremely well; I can certainly see how Blood Brothers has such a following.
Bob Tomson's direction was efficient and made for smooth transitions between scenes. Andy Walmsley's set was fairly basic but more than adequate for the content. Mark Howett's lighting design was extremely good, blending general washes in with some quite technical dramatic cues at the necessary moments. Also impressive was Ben Harrison's sound design and the department's mixing capabilities.
Mrs Johnstone's character was made famous by Barbara Dickson back in the 1980s and she is still massively associated with the role some nearly 30 years on. Niki Evans who plays the role in this production is superb. Known for appearing on the X Factor a few series ago, her vocals are flawless and a real powerhouse, but what is brilliant is her clear acting abilities. Evans looked exhausted at the end during the curtain call; clearly an actress who puts her all into every performance. Marti Pellow starred as the Narrator which is quite a bizarre character and at times perhaps a little unnecessary, but in hindsight the story probably did need someone to anchor it. Pellow is more than capable in this role and always suits the sinister character.
There are also wonderful supporting performances from Sean Jones and Jorden Bird, playing Mickey and Eddie respectively - particularly from the former. Jones demonstrated the deterioration of Mickey fantastically and had brilliant comic timing.
The show received laughs throughout but no more so than at the production's climax, which was a shame as it's such a tense and dramatic moment. The nervous laughter from the audience seemed to tarnish the mood slightly. This could probably be altered by using sound effects instead of 'real' gunshots although the overall impact may not be quite the same.
Blood Brothers runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 3rd November. I would highly recommend it.
Photo: Bill Kenwright Productions