I love Blood Brothers and have to admit Mrs Johnstone is role I dream of playing one day. With more drama than any soap, this wonderful story is set in the exciting City of Liverpool with a move to Skelmersdale later in the show. Set between the 50’s-70’s, it tells us of a young woman who met a ‘fella’ and got pregnant and in those days, children without marriage was frowned upon, so very quickly they wed…. She went on to have several children with him before he left her, and she no longer looked like ‘Marilyn Monroe’ who he had always likened her to. He left her pregnant “with seven hungry mouths to feed and one more nearly due”. Only one more turned into two more mouths… The lady she cleaned for hatched a plan and as she couldn’t have her own child, Mrs Johnstone agreed to help her out. Mrs Lyons would have her baby.
And from there, we go on a roller coaster of a ride with many twists and turns and lots of ups and downs, for this lower-class family.
The set was simple but effective and furniture and props were handled well by the cast leaving no need for stage crew on set. This seems to be the norm now as more and more theatres including performances by Amateur Societies, take this kind of approach. I must say, it makes for clean, seamless movement with no dead space or interruptions.
The sound and lighting were on point all through with just one minor note, if I may please. The section where Eddie sings “I’m not saying a word”, I felt (as did my colleague) that the backing singers off stage were a little loud and I found myself ‘remembering’ the lyrics rather than listening to them as I couldn’t hear him over them. Otherwise, bravo.
The band, led by Musical Director Matt Malone, was incredible and played the well-known score with ease including numbers like “Light Romance”, “Easy Terms” and of course, the hit song “Tell Me It’s Not True” (brilliantly performed by Niki Colwell Evans as Mrs Johnstone)
This leads me nicely into our cast. Brilliant, not one member didn’t deserve to be there: some playing varying roles throughout the show and playing each one well… I must admit to having three standouts for a number of reasons; firstly, Jay Worley (who played Edward ‘Eddie’ Lyons) – his upper-class schoolboy portrayal was fantastic, and his naivety shone through without making him seem dumb. His voice was beautiful and what I heard of “I’m Not Saying a Word” was lovely.
Next, I have to commend Niki Colwell Evans for a magnificent performance of Mrs Johnstone. She was outstanding and really took the part to another lever. The first few minutes or so, I feel there may have been some first night, new venue nerves but these very quickly disappeared, and she led this cast very well. As mentioned earlier, her rendition of “Tel Me It’s Not True” was absolutely heart-wrenching and her own emotions were clear to see without detracting from the performance. A true leading lady to be able to bring your own emotion into a song (a role) and not let the performance go… A stellar performance, Niki, well done.
But for me, the standout performance of the night belongs to Sean Jones who played the rough and ready schoolboy Michael ‘Mickey’ Johnstone… He was absolutely superb, not missing a beat. His comedic timing was sublime and his schoolboy antics, perfect. I know that Sean has played this role several times, and I have seen him twice before, and he never fails to bring Mickey to life. His experience with the role has helped him develop this kid and achieve the laughs and emotion from his audience and his monologue in Act one was spot on… You never fail to impress me Sean, thank you.
All this culminated in an explosive finale and one not easy to forget…
Well done to all involved in the wonderful production.
I strongly encourage you to get along to the Lowry this week if you can or follow the cast as it tours the UK. https://thelowry.com/whats-on/blood-brothers-2/
Reviewer: Hazel Bumby
Reviewed: 18th October 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★