Blood Brothers (review)

THE smash hit musical Blood Brothers returned to Milton Keynes Theatre this week with a brooding new star and a familiar face that stole everyone’s hearts.

It’s one of the venue’s favourite shows and it never fails to sell out. On opening night this week the cast couldn’t get off the stage, securing the now obligatory standing ovation and four encores.

This remarkable play never fails to bring a lump to my throat. Willy Russell’s epic story about nature over nurture is an urban legend that has, itself, become legendary.

Over the years we’ve had a clutch of Nolans take the leading role of desperate mum Mrs Johnstone but generally this is the sort of vehicle that needs no celebrity driver.

So it seemed surprising to see housewives’ favourite and former Wet Wet Wet lead singer Marti Pellow take the back seat role as the show’s narrator.

Now for those few of you who haven’t seen it, the narrator is a rather grim and mysterious figure who props up various parts of the set looking mean and moody, lurks in the shadows watching the story unfold and occasionally steps into the footlights to deliver a bit of spine-tingling dialogue. It isn’t the sort of part one would normally associate with a big star and nor does it need one.

This is the fourth time Pellow has been to MKT – previously taking the lead in the Witches of Eastwick, Jekyll & Hyde and Chicago - and this is his most unassuming.

Nevertheless he corners the market in dour. It took the third encore to see a slight crack of a smile and the fourth before he celebrated the show’s success with the rest of the cast.

The role wasn’t particularly taxing although the Scots-born singer-come-stage performer struggled to maintain a Liverpudlian accent.

But for me the star of Blood Brothers isn’t a household name but certainly should be. Sean Jones first came to Milton Keynes with the show a decade ago and, although he has taken a few breaks to do other projects, the role of Micky Johnstone keeps drawing him back.

The story is set in the grimy back streets of Liverpool and tells the story of twins Mickey and Eddie who are separated at birth only to be reunited and play out two sides of a love triangle.

Jones bounds around the stage like a young pup in the first act. He’s seven-years-old (going on eight), a filthy little Scally, full of cheek, who spends his days playing cowboys and Indians, until he meets a rather posh little boy called Edward and the pair become lifelong friends.

Sean’s Mickey is endearing and together with Jordan Bird, as Eddie, the pair enjoy themselves reliving their youth, complete with swearwords and spitting, which delights the teenagers in the audience who are there studying the play as a set text.

By the end of the night the boys are grown men who have developed just as society deemed that they should. Jones’ portrayal as the broken down and jobless Mickey is heartbreaking. It’s a truly compelling performance that will have you reaching for your hankie.

Blood Brothers runs until Saturday. It’s unmissable. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online COX