Review: Blood Brothers gets yet another standing ovation as it wows the audience in Coventry

Sean Jones (Mickey) and Joel Benedict (Eddie) in Blood Brothers (photo: Jack Merriman)Sean Jones (Mickey) and Joel Benedict (Eddie) in Blood Brothers (photo: Jack Merriman)
Sean Jones (Mickey) and Joel Benedict (Eddie) in Blood Brothers (photo: Jack Merriman)
Nick Le Mesurier reviews Blood Brothers at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Blood Brothers is sometimes known as he Standing Ovation Musical. It lived up to its reputation on the opening night of this full-on production. A packed house and four curtain calls were testimony to the show’s enduring popularity and a stunning performance.

The story tells of twin brothers, Mickey and Eddie Johnstone (Sean Jones and Joe Sleight). They are separated at birth when their single mother (Niki Colwell Evans), too poor on her own to raise both as well as her already overflowing family, sells one of them to her wealthy but childless employer Mrs Lyons (Paula Tappenden). This sin – and the play is saturated with Roman Catholic imagery and a constant reminder from the Narrator (Richard Munday) that ‘The Devil’s Got Your Number’ – overshadows the whole story, blighting both Mrs Johnstone’s life and that of Mrs Lyons, who raise their children in very different circumstances. Nevertheless the two brothers meet, and become best friends, blood brothers in fact, in a childish pact that lasts a lifetime.

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If the play is about sin and the consequences of sin, it is also about class. It is set in Liverpool from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, a time of great social change. Differences in wealth and opportunity are cornerstones of the plot. Mickey’s upbringing makes him subject to unskilled jobs and redundancy, prison and drug addiction, while Eddie’s takes him to a clean life at university and eventually a good job. In spite of their differences, the two remain firm friends, even though they fall in love with the same girl, Linda (Olivia Sloyan), until Mickey discovers a secret that represents for him the ultimate betrayal.

It’s the power of the story that has carried this show through thousands of performances in the West End and all over the world. That and the songs, which are easy to engage with and which drive the story on without becoming distractions. The acting in this production is truly superb. Sean Jones’s performance as Mickey is especially is remarkable. We see him transform body and soul from a boisterous ‘likely lad’ kid aged seven to a bitter, broken man in his 30s. Niki Colwall Evans as his mother is a powerhouse of an actress, who delivers warm hearted passion in every line. They are very well supported by others, not least Timothy Lucas as Sammy, Mickey’s older brother and a criminal in waiting right from the start.

For all the emphasis on sin, the play never seems to cast judgement on its characters or their situations, which makes it easy to watch. Neither is it overly sentimental, though I suspect there were many a tearful eye at the end, on stage and off. The story is worthy of grand opera in its melodrama which, arguably, the music sometimes isn’t quite grand enough to carry off. It could also pack more of a punch in its social commentary.

But that wouldn’t deter this or any other audience, who enjoyed an evening of thoroughly engrossing and uplifting theatre. From what I overheard, some in the audience hadn’t been to the theatre before. I'll bet they come again.

Blood Brothers runs until April 1. Visit or call 024 7655 3055 to book.