As popular as ever, Willy Russell’s heart-breaking musical depicting the tale of twins parted at birth, thrilled and shocked last night’s audience in equal measure. The story of one child who is brought up in the slums of Liverpool, while the other enjoys the love of a middle-class family, does not just mock the English class system, but depicts the life and loves of two young men connected by blood, yet so different in many ways.
Russell has the unique ability to create laugh-out loud moments and heart-wrenching scenes within seconds of each other, most probably driven by Liverpudlian wit and on the other side of the coin, pure hardship.
You really have to be a mother to understand the tragedy of parting with a child, but parent or not, there was a sea of tears as X-Factor finalist Niki Colwell Evans headed up the extremely strong cast of this musical masterpiece.
Playing the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone, a hard-working mother who continually strives to keep the wolf from the door, is no walk in the park but Niki gave an extraordinarily emotional performance proving without doubt she must surely have drawn on her own life experience to obtain such perfection.
It has been ten years since she previously played the role and so during that time it is obvious that she has honed her acting skills, and as you would expect, offered an outstanding vocal performance of Russell’s unusual score.
This is the only example of adults acting as children that I can say I really enjoy - it is usually a pet hate of mine - but such is the quality of the writing and performances, the humour simply flows over the floodlights.
Scene-stealer Sean Jones made a welcome return to the role of Mickey, for which he is renowned in the world of musical theatre. It takes particular skill to execute such physical drama, as the character moves through life in the space of three hours, but it is apparent he was born to play this role and if anything, his performances get better and better.
Jay Worley is perfectly cast in the role of Eddie, offering an appealing performance, again with excellent vocals, while Carly Burns was comely and cute and then in complete contrast, gritty and downtrodden in the role of Linda, the girl between the twins.
Timothy Lucas as Sammy was the epitome of a bullying older brother, offering a hilarious performance, conducted with complete abandonment and no inhibitions whatsoever.
Richard Munday was suitably sinister as The Narrator, although I have seen previous performances with a much stronger presence. Having said that, he came into his own in Act Two and offered outstanding vocals throughout.
The ensemble, who played a variety of different parts, are not only accomplished dramatically and vocally, but also extremely versatile and are the foundation of the whole show.
Atmospheric lighting helps to transition the scenery from Liverpudlian slum to countryside dwellings and the sound designer Dan Samson should be applauded for the excellent effects which created a menacing, dark mood.
The excellent orchestra under the supervision of musical director Matt Malone deliver an outstanding rendition of the show, earning a well-deserved applause at the end.
Blood Brothers has one of the most emotional, memorable and alarming finales of any musical and this version was no expectation. As Niki Colwell Evans led the company in the moving, poignant Tell Me It’s Not True, there was not a dry eye in the house.
With a compelling story line and instantly recognisable songs, Blood Brothers remains a must-see.
If you have never seen it, go. and if you have already seen it, go again.
Blood Brothers runs until Saturday. For tickets, call 01902 429212 or visit grandtheatre.co.uk.