Theatre Review: Blood Brothers


Blood Brothers at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre starts strong, never lets up and ends with a bang says David Mullane.

“Have you heard the story of the Johnstone twins?” By now, most people have, and more than once in a lot of cases. Willie Russell’s tragicomic story of a Liverpudlian put-upon mother and her twins, separated at birth, is a perennial favourite with Irish audiences.

Russell (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine) writes dialogue like no one else and Blood Brothers stands above most other musicals for its authentic, engaging and hilarious characters. In fact, it’s a testament to the strength of the musical’s book that many straight dramatic versions have often been performed without the music.

But what music! Stirring, melodic, unforgettable, Russell’s songs contribute as much as the script to make the show one of the most powerful in British musical history. While many long-running musicals update their scores after a number of years, to freshen up the orchestrations, Blood Brothers still sounds like it did in the 80s with lots of synth and vocal effects. At times, you might wonder if it would benefit from a 21st-century spritz but why fix it if it ain’t broke and songs like the closing number, ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’, sure ain’t broke.

Something else which sure ain’t broke is Rebecca Storm’s performance of Mrs Johnstone, a role she has inhabited since 1983, across a dozen productions in those thirty or so years. Some stars are born to play certain roles and Storm was born to play Mrs Johnstone. Having also performed other major musical roles over the years such as Eva Peron (Evita) and Fantine (Les Misérables), the opportunity to watch this master at work is worth the ticket price alone.

The rest of the cast also deserve commendation, particularly Sean Jones, Joel Benedict and Danielle Corlass as Mickey, Eddie and Linda respectively, who transition from 8-year-old children to twentysomething adults over the course of two acts.

Having earned the moniker ‘The Standing Ovation Musical’ over the years, Blood Brothers starts strong, never lets up and ends with a bang. An onlooker might suspect the Bord Gais Energy Theatre of installing springs underneath their seats because when Storm brings down the house with ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ and the lights go to a full black-out, the audience spring en masse to their feet, high-clapping, tears streaming down their cheeks.

A true test of a musical is its ‘hummability’ and when the curtain has come down and the tears have dried up, the audience exit the theatre humming along to that epic finale. Blood Brothers passes the test with flying colours. It’s a classic of British musical theatre.


Blood Brothers will run in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until October 11.

To book tickets visit Bord Gáis Energy Theatre online.

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