Blood Brothers takes audience on rollercoaster of emotions at Birmingham Hippodrome - review with pictures

Seven years after finishing in the West End and 36 years after first being performed, Blood Brothers remains as popular as ever.

Lyn Paul, centre, is again playing Mrs Johnstone in what is her final Blood Brothers production
Lyn Paul, centre, is again playing Mrs Johnstone in what is her final Blood Brothers production

At least that's how it seemed at Birmingham Hippodrome last night where, as normal, the musical received a rapturous standing ovation.

"Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins?"

After being performed in theatres up and down the country for the last three decades, most people in the audience were probably able to answer yes to the narrator's famous opening question.

If not here's a summary.

Twin brothers Mickey and Eddie are separated at birth, grow up in wildly different homes, become best friends, fall in love with the same girl, fall out of love with each other and end up dead (if you think I've just given the mother of all spoilers, it's all given away in the opening scene anyway).

After a slow start the show becomes a rollercoaster of emotions while simultaneously providing a social commentary on class, crime, housing and education. But, just as importantly, it's a whole load of nostalgic fun.

Blood Brothers was performed more than 10,000 times in the West End before closing in 2012

Adults playing children can sometimes turn into a cringefest, but the quality of the script means that's rarely the case in Blood Brothers and it certainly isn't the case in this UK tour.

Mickey, Eddie, Sammy, Linda and co revelled in galloping across the Hippodrome stage - picking bogies, spitting and fighting throughout a youthful first act which provided many of the show's highlights.

Daniel Taylor had the violent-yet-vulnerable Sammy role down to an hilarious tee and Joel Benedict provided Eddie's perfect posh contrast, but it was Alexander Patmore who stood out as nearly eight-year-old Mickey - keeping the audience hanging on his every word in the all-important 'I wish I was our Sammy' monologue.

The cast is a mix of experience and youth and native Liverpudlian Patmore continued to be its stand-out performer in the second half.

Eddie, Linda and Mickey with the ever-present narrator behind

Playing Mickey and Linda demands a wider range of acting than any of the other main roles - from carefree kids to horny teenagers to depressed parents - and Patmore and Danielle Corlass seemed completely at ease as the awkward lovers.

That's not to detract from any of the other cast members: Robbie Scotcher's understated spookiness suited the omniscient narrator, Graham Martin ably hopped from role to role and Lyn Paul provided the stand-out voice despite being 70 years old.

Personally I find it odd not having an accent that's more Manc than it is Scouse in the key Mrs Johnstone role, but given Paul has been in and out of the role since 1997 it seems I'm in the minority.

The former New Seekers singer set the tone with opening song Marilyn Monroe and brought the house down with heartwrenching finale Tell Me It's Not True.

The production - Paul's last as Mrs Johnstone - is midway through touring the UK and if you can't make it in Birmingham, Derby and Crewe are the next closest stops.

If you haven't seen it before, book your tickets now. If you have seen it before, book your tickets again.

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