by Andrea Gaini
Seeing a show for the first time is very difficult. Musicals, in particular, because sometimes it takes a little bit of time to familiarise yourself with the music and the constant change from acting to singing. Last night at the New Theatre in Cardiff was my first time ever seeing Blood Brothers, the tear-jerking story of two brothers separated at birth, but friends since they were seven years old. This show is one of the most famous shows in the U.K., having performed on the West End theatre over 10,000 times and now travelling around the country playing in sold-out houses like yesterday in Cardiff.
The story told during the show is a very catchy one: two twin brothers, a poor mother who cannot afford to raise them both and a woman that can’t have children. It all starts when Mrs. Johnston (the poor mother) after her husband left her, discovers to be expecting twins and not just a child and decides to give one to the woman she works for, who couldn’t have any. The narrator talks about a destiny that they won’t be able to escape. A destiny that pushes the two kids to become best friends and grow up together even though they live in different families.
The U.K. tour production of Blood Brothers, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, is very fluid and fun to watch. Mrs. Johnston (Lyn Paul) and Mickey (Sean Jones) are the stars of this production for their beautiful interpretation of their characters and the amazing voices they have. Sean Jones especially amazed me for his ability to grow up during the show with his character and still make it smooth and trustful. A few words should be said about Dean Chisnall (the narrator), his singing was fabulous, but at times during the performance, he was awkwardly standing around the scene, which I found a bit odd.
Some directing choice also made me raise a couple of questions. First of all, why was the second act so much better and the first one? Even though Jones and Hutchinson played Mickey and Eddie when they were kids, extremely well, the scenes often seemed a bit slow. Furthermore, the end of act one was a bit low energy, which left me very disappointed: the happiest moment of the story, when the Johnston family finally gets to leave that awful place they used to live in, didn’t seem energetic enough. Secondly, why wasn’t the lighting matching the emotions expressed by the actors and the text? At times, for example in the finale of the first act, the lighting was not reflecting the scenes very well. The overuse of full white lights, again, especially in the first act, made all the scenes seem the same. In a musical where there are very few blackouts and the scene changes are not that revolutionary, it seemed weird that the lights changed colour and intensity only when a dramatic scene happens i.e. the death of the twins. In particular, the scenes where the Lyons Family house comes down, was a bit unnatural as you could see the other houses around it.
However, the majority of the drawbacks I found during the first act were resolved in the second part of the show, when even the lights started to be a little bit more elaborated and matching with the scenes. The final shooting when Mickey and Eddie die was perfectly timed which made the entire room jump off their seats and that was a really nice way to surprise the audience and a very strong ending to the show.
In the end, Blood Brothers conquered me for its captivating story and the great interpreters that were performing in it. However, I do think the show could have been much better if they had worked a little harder on the first act to make it equally enjoyable to the second part of this beautiful musical.