|20th Anniversary London Poster|
|Productions||1983 West End
1988 West End revival
|Awards||Olivier Award for Best New Musical (1983)|
The musical has a contemporary nature vs. nurture plot, revolving around fraternal twins who were separated at birth. The twins' different backgrounds take them to opposite ends of the social spectrum, one becoming an Oxbridge-graduated councillor and the other unemployed and imprisoned. Both fall in love with the same girl, with tragic consequences.
The production is in its 21st year and has developed a cult following.
Blood Brothers premiered in the West End on 11 April 1983 at the Lyric Theatre and closed on 22 October 1983. The musical was revived at the Albery Theatre, opening on 28 July 1988 and closing on 16 November 1991. It then transferred to the Phoenix Theatre on 21 November 1991.
The central role of Mrs. Johnstone has been played by, among others, Stephanie Lawrence, Clodagh Rodgers, Kiki Dee, Lyn Paul, Siobhan McCarthy, Katie Scott, and four of the Nolan sisters (Linda, Bernie, Denise and Maureen). On 26 October 2009 Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm made her West End debut playing Mrs Johnstone and is scheduled to continue in the role for six months. Ex-Blue member Antony Costa played the role of Mickey during 2006. Theatre and TV star Steven Houghton joined the London cast as The Narrator in 2007. The London production currently stars Melanie Chisholm as Mrs Johnstone, Stephen Palfreman as Mickey and Richard Reynard as Eddie. The narrator is currently played by Phillip Stewart in the West End production. In the 2008 national UK tour, Marti Webb was Mrs Johnstone for a brief period, from September to the end of the year, playing two weeks in the West End, whilst Niki Evans played her home town.
The Broadway production opened on 25 April 1993 at the Music Box Theatre and closed on 30 April 1995 after 840 performances. Several of the British actors made their Broadway debuts, including Stephanie Lawrence as Mrs. Johnstone, Con O'Neill as Mickey, Mark Michael Hutchinson as Eddie and Warwick Evans as the narrator. Kerry Butler made her Broadway debut in the ensemble. In order to boost box office sales, Bill Kenwright convinced Petula Clark to make her Broadway debut as Mrs. Johnstone, with real-life brothers David Cassidy and Shaun Cassidy as her sons. She later starred in the US national tour from 1994–95. Clark and the Cassidys also recorded the international cast album, with Willy Russell as the Narrator. Following Clark's portrayal, Mrs. Johnstone was played by other 1960s pop singers, with Carole King and Helen Reddy later playing the role on Broadway. Many of the cast members were also in the Canadian run, which starred David Cassidy, Michael Burgess and Canadian singer-songwriter Amy Sky
Mrs Johnstone is unable to pay the bills and cannot support her family after her husband left several months earlier, therefore she takes a job as a cleaner for an upper-class couple (Mr and Mrs Lyons). This makes life easier but it is still difficult. Soon she finds out she is pregnant but she can barely afford to have the child.
Mrs Lyons is desperate for a baby but is unable to conceive, and would like to adopt a child but her husband does not agree. Mrs Johnstone finds out that she is going to have twins and explains to Mrs Lyons that she cannot cope financially with two more babies; the "welfare" have been onto her about the ones she's already got. Mrs Lyons then suggests that Mrs Johnstone give one of the babies to her. Mrs Johnstone apprehensively agrees to this and is made to swear on The Bible to keep to the deal. Mrs Johnstone has the twins (Mickey and Edward), but then regrets having agreed to give one away. She lies to her other children that the baby has died.
Mrs Johnstone continues to work for Mrs Lyons, but Mrs Lyons soon feels that Mrs Johnstone is paying too much attention to the child that she has given up to her. She fires Mrs Johnstone, who wants to take the baby with her, but Mrs Lyons plays on Mrs Johnstone's superstitions by telling her that "if twins separated at birth learn that they were once one of a pair they will both immediately die". Mrs Johnstone takes the money that Mrs Lyons gave her and leaves without the child.
Seven years later, Mickey, the son Mrs Johnstone kept, meets Edward, the other twin, and after learning they share the same birthday, the two boys decide to become blood brothers. They make a pact. Mrs Johnstone finds them and sends Edward away, telling him not to come round again or else the "Bogey-man" will get him. Later in the day Mickey goes to Edward's house, and Mrs Lyons throws him out. She and Edward argue on the subject, and Edward swears at her. Mrs Lyons slaps him and immediately regrets her reaction. She realises that he has learnt offensive language from Mickey.
Mickey is playing with some neighbourhood children including his friend Linda. Afterwards, he takes her to see Edward, and the three of them sneak off to play, but are caught by a policeman when about to throw stones through a window. Mrs Lyons tries to find Edward. She becomes worried about Edward's association with Mickey, as she has started to believe the superstition that she herself had made up. She decides to move house and persuades her husband by pretending to be ill. When Edward says goodbye, Mrs Johnstone gives him a locket with a picture of herself and Mickey, as the boys separate.
Edward, Mickey and Linda are now 14-years-old. Mrs Johnston and her family's lives have improved since moving, and they have not seen Edward in all this time. Mickey has a crush on Linda, who is obviously interested in him too, but Mickey doesn't know how to act with her. Both of them are suspended after mouthing off to their teacher. Edward is also suspended from his boarding school for refusing to give up Mrs Johnston's locket to a teacher, but he will not tell his mother about it. Mrs Lyons sees Mrs Johnston near her house and her worries are renewed. Edward and Mickey bump into each other in a field, but don't recognize each other. They become friends, each wanting to be like the other.
They finally realize who the other is and meet up with Linda. Mrs Lyons flies into a rage and tries to kill Mrs Johnston. The scene shifts, and they are 18-years-old. Edward has feelings for Linda but won’t say anything as he knows Mickey likes her too. Edward leaves for university but not before encouraging Mickey to ask Linda out. During Edward's absence, Mickey is made redundant from his factory job due to the recession, which forces him onto the dole. He soon discovers that Linda is pregnant, and they decide to get married. Edward returns at Christmas ready to party and have fun, but Mickey realizes that they are now very different; after a small fight with Edward, they part. To get money, Mickey assists his brother Sammy in a robbery that goes wrong, and becomes an accessory to a murder committed by Sammy. He is sentenced to seven years in prison.
In prison, Mickey falls into a deep depression. When released early for good behavior, he is still dependent on anti-depressants, and he turns away from Linda, despite them getting their own house. She contacts Edward, who is now a councilor, and they have a romantic fling in a park. Mrs Lyons sees them together and tells Mickey about it. Mickey, distraught over Edward and Linda's affair, grabs a gun before storming down to the council offices to confront Edward.
There, Edward is giving a speech when Mickey storms in with the gun. Mickey asks why, even though Edward has everything and Mickey has nothing, Edward would take away the one good thing that Mickey had — Linda. Edward denies this intention, and the police enter, demanding that Mickey put the gun down, Mickey lowers the gun. Mrs Johnston runs in and, in an attempt to stop Mickey from shooting Edward, tells the two brothers the truth. Mickey despairs that he was not the one given away, because then he could have had the life given to Edward. Mickey, distraught, gestures carelessly with the gun towards Edward. The police misinterpret this action and Mickey is shot as he accidentally shoots Edward. Both Mickey and Edward lie dead on the floor. Mrs Lyon's superstitious prediction has come true, and the Narrator questions whether class was more to blame than superstition.