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Theatre Review: Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, Belgrade Coventry, Starring Linda Nolan

Blood Brothers
We went to see Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry last weekend. I was keen to see the musical as the St. John Ambulance show that I’d been involved in last year included a couple of songs from the musical. I was certainly not left disappointed.

The show has already won awards including Best Musical in London’s West End, and awards on Broadway, and it’s easy to see why. I’m not sure whether I would say it’s the best musical I’ve seen, but then I don’t know what I would. The musicals I’ve seen vary so much from the classic “Sound of Music”, to the Rock Musicals of “We Will Rock You”, and “Tonight’s the Night”, and those aimed at younger audiences such as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Lion King”. These were all really good in their own right and I enjoyed different shows for different reasons, so couldn’t really name a best musical. It is however one of the very few where I have seen almost the entire audience join in a standing ovation at the end.

The thing that makes this musical stand out from the others is the brilliant acting from the cast. Many musicals rely so much on music and dance that little is given to actual acting, but Blood Brothers includes some very powerful drama, that is well acted by all the cast.
The only negative part that I have for the whole performance is that unlike the London casts (as I’ve heard on CD), there was not much of a Liverpool accent from most of the actors. This is not a big deal as I’d rather that the accents were easy to follow and understand rather than risk a poor attempt at a Liverpool accent which could have spoilt the show.

The story is based in Liverpool on a low income family with a single mum that is pregnant with twins. Unable to see how she could afford to bring up both children she gives one away which is kept a secret. The two boys grow up in the same area and become friends despite being brought up in different backgrounds and with parents that want to keep the children apart for fear of them finding out the truth. The story centres on the differences between the two boys and how different they are, which turns into tragedy as they get older.

Despite much of the story portraying children, all the actors are adults. At first I wasn’t sure whether it would work, but it was pulled off very well. The story is set in the first half which starts off quite slowly, but with some good comedy that appealed to the audience. During the second half the children have grown up some more and the drama unfolds.
There is some quite liberal use of bad language, but it’s all in context and is even worked into the comedy aspect in the beginning.

Well worth going to see. I suspect the Belgrade has now sold out for the rest of the shows, but worth trying to catch at another theatre.

Unfortunately there is some sad news about Linda Nolan who plays Mrs Johnstone (the star of the show). She has just this week been diagnosed with breast cancer. I obviously wish her the best and hope that she makes a full recovery.