27th October, 2012
It is fair to say that I’ve seen Bill Kenwright's and Bob Thomson’s production (both in London and on tour) of Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers a fair amount of times and so when it was closing I booked tickets for the final night, which was due to be the 27th but was then extended by two. In the end, I decided to see both. This show was the last of the final ‘full term’ cast with Vivienne Carlyle as Mrs. Johnstone, Philip Stewart as the narrator, Mark Rice-Oxley as Mickey, Paul Christopher as Eddie and Louise Clayton as Linda.
I first saw Vivienne Carlyle’s Mrs. Johnstone in 2008 when she understudied Linda Nolan in Northampton. Although she’s not my favourite and I prefer her Mrs. Lyons, her voice is incredibly powerful with particularly impressive riffs in Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe 3 and Light Romance and as she’s younger than many other actresses in the role, Mrs. Johnstone’s youthful side is well shown. Furthermore, although she will be playing Mrs. Lyons in the final two weeks, you could hear that she was genuinely tearful in Tell Me It’s Not True.
Philip Stewart remains one of my favourite narrators as he never overworks the Devil imagery and plays the part as the Everyman. Vocally, his version of Mad Man is probably the best and the audience could tell that in this last performance he was really having fun with the song (in fact, in the matinee, it looked like he was dancing at one moment). Either way, I hope to see him in the role again one day as he was completely comfortable in both the vocal side and the acting side of role – an excellent performance.
After seeing Stephen Palfreman and Sean Jones take on the role of Mickey so many times, it was nice to see someone new in the role, although Mark Rice-Oxley didn’t quite follow their acts. His refreshingly different interpretation found new rhythms which uncovered new humour and more of a vulnerability, but the comedy of the 7 (nearly 8) year old in act one and the poverty-stricken young adult in act two weren’t quite conveyed as well other actors’ take on the role, perhaps because he didn’t quite build up the same sense of pace or drama.
With a fantastic cast (a nod especially goes to Louise Clayton, Michael Southern and Matt Slack), I’m glad I saw this final ‘full-term’ cast launch the final two weeks of Blood Brothers - 'the musical for all time'.