From left Edward (Dom Bradley) and Mickey (Ethan Liboiron) while Mrs Johnstone (Della Days( looks on.
Blood Brothers: Review.
By Douglas Kennedy.
Blood Brother. Book, Music & Lyrics by Willy Russell. Directed by Kate Steuart-Robins. Music Direction by Matthew Pearson. Ensemble Cast. Javeenbah Theatre Company.
Runs until April 13.
Willy Russell’s ever-popular nature versus nurture musical, Blood Brothers, makes a welcome to the stage in a new Javeenbah Theatre Company production.
The show, which opened at the Gold Coast theatre this week, is a highly original concoction of loveable childhood comedy and melodramatic adult drama.
Blood Brothers, which has been successfully doing the rounds since 1983, centers on the lives of fraternal twins (none identical) Edward (Dom Bradley) and Mickey (Ethan Liboiron) who are parted at birth.
Edward grows up in a wealthy upwardly mobile family while Mickey remains with his mum, known only as Mrs. Johnstone (Della Days), and his tribe of unruly impoverished brothers and sisters.
Despite living on separate sides of the tracks, Edward and Mickey are destined to meet first as firm childhood friends and in the two act as grown-up rivals for the love of long-time friend Linda (Sarah Hunt).
Blood Brothers opens with the young and optimistic Mrs. Johnstone meeting a man who takes her dancing marries her and finally leaves her with a brood of kids.
When the struggling mother learns her final pregnancy will yield twins she reluctantly succumbs to pressure from the posh Mrs. Lyons (Sally Wood) who is desperate for a child.
She makes a pact with the middle-class housewife, but when the babies are born immediately regrets the decision although the die is cast.
In the first half, we meet the twins as children meeting each other and, along with Linda, forming a bond which results in them becoming firm friends and in the case of the boys’ blood brothers.
The cast – which is rounded out by Ethan Speight, Bella Kacic Tony Olding, Courtney Powell, Ryan Bourke, and Kat Brand as the narrator – is excellent with the ‘kids’ really shining in some delightful comic scenes.
Adults playing youngsters can be awkward and uncomfortable but this antithesis of the Brady Bunch living in working-class Britain is a joy to watch.
Director Katie Steuart-Robins brings everyone together with great aplomb and steers them magnificently into a darker place in the more challenging young adulthood scenes.
Ethan Liboiron’s Mickey and Della Days as Mrs. Johnstone are the production’s two stand-out performances, although everyone has their moment in the theatrical sun.
Russell’s saga has had an outstanding run in the UK and Australia with Russell Crowe, Amanda Muggleton and Chrissy Amphlett among the leads in previous Down Under productions.
Back in Britain Blood Brothers had a short run in 1983 but later in a revival went for 24 years in the West End playing for 10,000 performances, and becoming the third longest-running musical production in West End history.
Russell’s tunes suit the production and the whole work makes for a terrific night at the theatre.
Katie Steuart-Robins have done this highly praised and successful show proud, and Javeenbah deserves good audiences for this one.