×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Blood Brothers

Even with Broadway headliners Petula Clark and David Cassidy, and with the show still eking out a run in New York, "Blood Brothers" may prove a slow sell on its national tour, which recently opened in Dallas, courtesy of the Dallas Summer Musicals.

With:
Mrs. Johnstone - Petula Clark
Mickey - David Cassidy
Eddie - Tif Luckenbill
Narrator - Mark McGrath
Mr. Lyons - Priscilla Quinby
Mr. Lyons - Walter Hudson
Sammy - John Kozeluh
Linda - Yvette Lawrence

Even with Broadway headliners Petula Clark and David Cassidy, and with the show still eking out a run in New York, “Blood Brothers” may prove a slow sell on its national tour, which recently opened in Dallas, courtesy of the Dallas Summer Musicals. Because New York critics savaged the show and there’s been little national media coverage, “Blood Brothers” doesn’t seem to have penetrated very deeply into the theater consciousness of the hinterlands.

That’s the way it seems in Dallas, where the B.O. has been sluggish and audiences often unresponsive to the two stars when they first appear. But as usual with the show’s cultish history, once you get theatergoers in the doors, they go away enthusiastic. For its part, the national tour is a top-notch reproduction.

A tale of Liverpool twins separated at birth and tragically separated by class, “Blood Brothers” has been justifiably knocked for its heavy-handed social message, its repetitiveness and its “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” theater style, with adults cutely playing kids for too long.

Popular on Variety

But critics who pummeled the show for its melodramatic plot and its use of superstitious omens missed much of the point. Author-composer Willy Russell is after the portentous atmosphere of the ancient British ballads, songs with a common sense of the way poverty brutalizes people. Admittedly, this leads to a soap opera version of class analysis in which the well-off are neurotic and infertile, the poor dynamic but disorganized.

Yet there is something compelling about the show’s portrait of a doom-laden, recession-weary Britain, something that audiences connect with.[ Even Russell’s nursery-rhyme lyrics and ’50s- to ’70s-style period music — a mix of Merseyside pop, British music hall hummability and Broadway belting — contribute to the populist qualities of “Blood Brothers.”]

As the poor son, former Partridge Cassidy displays some impressive vocal chops, as does narrator Mark McGrath. But as an actor, Cassidy simply doesn’t have the grim forcefulness of the tremendous Brit original Con O’Neil. As his mum, Clark is a revelation. Hers was among the finest female pop voices Britain produced in the ’60s, and it remains an astonishing instrument: beautiful, powerful, pure.

As the other mum who goes mad, Priscilla Quinby makes her character much less of a monster than Barbara Walsh did on Broadway.

Co-directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, tour retains Andy Walmsley’s sets with their cheap-looking back walls flown on for short scenes away from show’s basic brick housing project. Also retained is Joe Atkins’ lighting.

“Blood Brothers” never attains the status of working-class myth that it seems to want, but it deserves more respect than the trouncing it got. With the short runs on tour, the question is whether there will be enough time for the show’s come-from-behind effect to take hold.

Blood Brothers

Music Hall at Fair Park, Dallas; 3,420 seats; $45 top

Production: A Bill Kenwright presentation of a musical in two acts with music, lyrics and book by Willy Russell. Directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson.

Creative: Musical direction by Rod Edwards; sets and costumes, Andy Walmsley; lighting, Joe Atkins; sound, Paul Astbury; musical arrangements, Del Newman; casting, Pat McCorkle; general manager, Gene O'Donovan; production supervision, Mary Porter Hall; musical coordinator, Mort Silver. Opened Sept. 6, 1994. Reviewed Sept. 13. Running time: 2 HOURS, 52 MIN.

Cast: Mrs. Johnstone - Petula Clark
Mickey - David Cassidy
Eddie - Tif Luckenbill
Narrator - Mark McGrath
Mr. Lyons - Priscilla Quinby
Mr. Lyons - Walter Hudson
Sammy - John Kozeluh
Linda - Yvette Lawrence
With: Chris Yates, Brandon S. Williams, Perry Ojeda, Leslie Ann Hendricks, Marcy De Nezza.

More Legit

  • Bess Wohl

    Listen: The Impossible Plays of Bess Wohl

    The playwright Bess Wohl is always chasing a wild idea — and she’s found that rather than scaring away her collaborators, it just makes them more eager. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I started my career thinking, oh, I’ll just write a play that’s really easy to do,” Wohl said on the latest episode [...]

  • Roundabout Theatre Company: Three New Plays

    Roundabout Theatre's Off-Broadway Season Adds Three Shows From Female Playwrights

    Roundabout Theatre Company, led by artistic director and CEO Todd Haimes, announced Tuesday that three female-written plays will be added to the 2020-2021 Off-Broadway season. Sanaz Toossi’s “English” will make its world premiere in fall of 2020, while Lindsey Ferrentino’s “The Year to Come” and Anna Ziegler’s “The Wanderers” will make their New York debuts [...]

  • Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant,

    Gregg Smith, Dancer and Choreographer Assistant, Dies at 73

    Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73. Smith died on Jan. 1. The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He [...]

  • Frozen review musical

    Warmth and Humor Pervade Pantages Production of 'Frozen' the Musical

    In 2013, Disney’s “Frozen” hit screens like a 100 mile-per-hour snowball, sparking a pop cultural phenomenon in which little girls and boys pranced about dressed in Anna and Elsa and Olaf costumes while belting aloud “Let It Go,” Elsa’s feminist anthemic response to ice powers rendering her a societal outcast. The animated movie won two [...]

  • My Name Is Lucy Barton review

    'My Name is Lucy Barton': Theater Review

    Laura Linney is in love. Just watch the radiant expression on her face as she wraps her arms around the character of Lucy Barton, a role she played in two separate engagements at the Bridge Theater in London, and is now reprising on Broadway in “My Name is Lucy Barton.” The feeling is obviously mutual, [...]

  • 'Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal' to

    'Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal' to Air Weekly, Syndicate Nationally (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Broadway Profiles with Tamsen Fadal” will become nationally syndicated, marking a first for a program about the Great White Way. Beginning in fall 2020, the monthly show will increase frequency to air weekly. The show is hosted and executive-produced by 12-time Emmy Award winner Tamsen Fadal, a news anchor at WPIX, the channel that initially [...]

  • Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy

    Listen: What Laura Linney Learns From Bad Shows

    For Laura Linney, every stage experience is a learning experience. “Even the bad ones!” she cheerfully declared on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Even the ones that are really bad, and I’ve been really bad in some things,” continued the Emmy winner, currently back on Broadway [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content