Friday 21 December 2012

Blood Brothers (final night)

Phoenix, London

10th November, 2012

(Also see the review from 27th October, 2012).

This review is of the closing night of the West End production of Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers. For the final two weeks, former cast members returned including Lyn Paul as Mrs. Johnstone, Warwick Evans as the Narrator, Sean Jones as Mickey, Mark Hutchinson as Eddie and Jan Graveson as Linda.

This was my 25th time seeing the show! It was nice to be amongst so many other fans, some having seen it many more times than me. As the announcement finished, there came applause before the final performance at the Phoenix began; the show seems so at home in the theatre that some people joked whether the theatre would collapse once the set had been struck.

Lyn Paul is brilliant as Mrs. Johnstone. You could hear her getting emotional in Easy Terms and she was unable to sing some parts of Tell Me It’s Not True but the roar of her voice still prevailed in Bright New Day and Light Romance. I read a review of a play some time ago about how the best actors change their appearance through the play and the same certainly goes for Lyn Paul’s Mrs. Johnstone. She excellently conveys all of the emotions needed for the role and by the end with no make-up, dressed-down hair and frail movements, she appears as just an old lady with her two dead sons by her feet but still powering on to sing the last song using every last bit of strength she has left – perhaps this could be seen as a metaphor for the show. I sincerely hope that she returns to role one day as she is my (and many others) favourite Mrs. J.

It was a pleasure to see the Warwick Evans in the role that he created in this production back in the late 1980s. Not just the Devil, he gave a complex and compassionate performance as the man who knows what’s to come. The narrator is an Everyman: the best looking guy on the street and in the dance hall; he is the ideal person who we all want to be; he represents the conscience ready to put his hand on the shoulder of someone and question their decisions. In The Robbery, he stood with his back to the wall calling something to Mickey as if to say ‘get up get up’. After his final lines, he clenched his fist as a sign of friendship to the bodies lying on the floor and quickly walked off before abruptly stopping himself when the first words of Tell Me It’s Not True were being sung as if he remembered that the story hadn’t ended there – that there were repercussions of Mickey’s and Eddie’s deaths. You could tell the emotion in the cast when the narrator walked downstage to take Mrs. Johnstone’s coat off and squeezed a couple of cast members’ hands as he passed in comfort. Moreover, the sad faces on so many cast members’ faces in the final verse exemplified the feelings of this show closing.

As it was the final night, there was lots of applause and some corpsing during the show, but words cannot describe how much Blood Brothers will be missed. Sean Jones’ interpretation of Mickey is brilliant, as is Mark Hutchinson’s sensitive Eddie and Jan Graveson’s feisty Linda.

The curtain call and speeches can be seen on YouTube, but I’m so glad I could be there.

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