Willy’s Russell’s commentary on class-division throughout Blood Brothers has stayed surprisingly relevant, even after 40 years since its first performance.
Its intriguing premise of two brothers separated at birth to only be dispersed into the two opposite ends of the social spectrum proves to be not only a fascinating study into the effects of nature vs nurture, but it also happens to be an incredibly entertaining musical – though not without its few minor issues.
The atmosphere was spirited and bubbly as the audience, a vibrant range of generations all present and emphatic with excitement eagerly awaited the curtains to be drawn. This varied range of ages speaks to the relatability of Russell’s narrative and its surprising relevancy in the modern world.
The audience were undoubtedly engaged from start to finish, each joke being accompanied by a wave of laughter that distilled throughout the theatre, this laughter mostly being the result of the excellent performances given by Josh Capper as Mickey and Joel Benedict as Eddie.
These two perfectly encapsulated the essence of two young best friends, Capper especially giving a energetic and bombastic performance as young Mickey; pulling his shirt below his knees and rolling across the stage, spitting and shouting, was certainly a highlight.
As the narrative began to take a turn for the more dramatic in the second act, both Capper and Benedict managed to stay equally as engaging as the tensions of the narrative began to grow as did their characters.
It shows just how flexible both Capper and Benedict are in these characters, and their ability to flip between the comedic and dramatic is deserving of merit.
On the other hand, Pete Washington’s rendition of Sammy felt a little flat in comparison to Capper and Benedict’s Mickey and Eddie, with Washington’s brief comedic or dramatic moments feeling overshadowed by that of Capper and Benedict.
Carly Burn’s Linda also suffered by being overshadowed by Capper and Benedict, though her more dramatic scenes in the latter half of the second act stood out as being notable as Burns acts with emotional confidence which in turn makes her character a lot more memorable in comparison to Washington.
However, the standout performance is Niki Evans as Mrs. Johnstone.
Exceptionally emotional in her vocal delivery, her lineage as a former X-Factor star can be felt in every word sung by Evans, her vocals reaching the very corners of the theatre, each incarnation of Marilyn Monroe being by far the most memorable and emotional parts of the musical all because of Evans’s brilliant vocal range.
Robbie Scotcher plays a fantastic narrator as well, whose intimidating omnipresence can be felt throughout the entirety of the musical.
His strong, foreboding yet bellowing tones in Shoes Upon the Table, the way he shouts ‘the devil has your number’, just adds a greater sense of emergency to the narrative. He can also be seen in most other sequences, directly or indirectly lurking around the set, and the other characters making his presence forever known to the audience.
The set itself was incredibly authentic and active throughout the entirety of the musical, though two static sets of buildings rest on both sides of the stage, each reflecting the industrial Liverpool estate that most of the musical is set in – this being further enhanced by the chaotic spray painted Everton that rested at the back of the set.
Objects in the foreground are constantly shifted and changed to reflect the situation being acted out.
The pace in which these objects are interchanged is commendable as the constantly changing nature of the set kept a consistent flow of visual variety that helped further engage the audience.
Though the stage design was fantastic, the costume design left a little to be desired. Mickey’s deliberately torn yet immaculately clean set of childhood clothes during the first act was a little jarring and pulled you out of the experience. Comparably, his ironed and neat factory outfit of the second act had a similar effect of disbelief.
Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s version of Blood Brothers ultimately did not disappoint, with a standing ovation that flooded the room after the final curtain was drawn.
The audience was ecstatic, overjoyed at every joke and every song performed by the mostly fantastic main cast.
The set design impressed and immersed, and the fantastic score flew high with the equally immaculate Niki Evans.
Though some performances fell a little flat in comparison to others and the costume design left a little taste of disbelief, it was impossible to not be swept up into the fantastical songs and euphoric atmosphere.
Well worth the price of admission and a must-watch for musical lovers everywhere.
Blood Brothers is at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 26th February 2022. Tickets are available here.