Show will be enduring
When you experience Blood Brothers you’ll talk about it. Abbey Musical Theatre’s first production for 2017 is a dramatic, sometimes tragic story that grips the audience and gives them a sense of closure at the end. No-one will walk away from the show without being completely involved.
Barry Jones, who’s both the director and musical director, says Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is one of those shows that has substance and will be around for decades to come.
Blood Brothers has been on Barry’s ‘‘to do’’ list for many years and when he was given the chance to direct it, he grabbed it. ’’I rate it very highly. It’s a real piece of theatre. Its themes are timeless.’’
The story, set in the 1970s, revolves around twins Mickey and Eddie, separated at birth. One was raised by a wealthy family and the other by a poor family. Their different backgrounds take them to opposite ends of the social spectrum. However, the love of the same girl brings them together, eventually ending in tragedy.
Two other characters play an integral part in the family dynamic. Mrs Johnstone, who gave Eddie away at birth, is a struggling parent, singlehandedly supporting her seven (later eight) children while Mrs Lyons is a dysfunctional parent who sends Eddie to boarding school. The twins don’t know how close the family connection is but when their lives inter-relate, trouble is on the horizon.
Woven into that compelling storyline are two themes. The first is superstition. In remaining faithful to Willy Russell’s story, Barry emphasises the irrational side of the story where the supernatural elements are told by a narrator. While he’s not seen by the characters, his demonic presence is felt. Mrs Johnstone swears on the Bible she won’t reveal the identity of the twin she gives up at birth. If she does, calamity will visit both boys on the same day. ’’I’ve made the narrator an entity in himself,’’ Barry explains.
The second theme is family. In contrast to Mrs Johnstone, who’s a loving, caring yet struggling mother, Mrs Lyons is inept and her life unravels as she lives in constant fear of being exposed as an inadequate parent.
The songs enhance the story and each in turn advances some aspect of the narrative. The classic number from Blood Brothers, Tell Me It’s Not True, sung by both mothers, reflects back on the drama and violence that’s just occurred.
While Blood Brothers is Barry’s debut as a solo director, he’s had 40 years in the orchestra pit to learn every aspect of musical theatre. But just when a director’s job is done as the curtain rises, he’ll be conducting the show with a live band. When the curtain falls for the final time, Barry’s job be completed.
Blood Brothers is on at The Auditorium, March 2-18. Book at www.abbeymusicaltheatre.co.nz.
Val Andrew, Michael Doody and Tyrell Beck in Blood Brothers.