A creepy and kooky evening with The Addams Family.

I had an awful evening at The Bristol Hippodrome. The show was grotesque from start to finish, and made me want to gouge out my eyes and hack off my ears. Which, in the style of The Addams Family is high praise indeed!

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Most people are familiar with the family of darkness, which centres around the charming, tango loving, passionate Gomez, his wife, the queen of spooky Morticia, and their strange, torture loving children Wednesday and Pugsley. The show in the 1960s gained a huge fan base, and the 1991 film was a big success. So now it has arrived on stage, and follows the story of Wednesday Addams, who has fallen in love with an unsuitable man. He is….gulp…..normal!

I have been looking forward to seeing this for months, and it didn’t let me down one bit. The cast were fantastic, the songs catchy (I’m still singing Crazier Than You), the costumes delightful and the set mesmerising.

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Samantha Womack took on the role of Morticia, which she made her own. She was poised and delightfully deadpan throughout, and really bought the character to life. And her dress was fantastic! Cameron Blakely joined her as Gomez, and it was a beautiful (Morticia would hate the use of that word) partnership! He elicited a lot of laughs during his song about trying to keep both his daughter and wife happy! I think every man who has a daughter and wife would sympathise! I went with my parents and my dad was nodding away!!

The role of Gomez’s eccentric brother Fester was due to be played by Les Dennis. However he was not able to perform, and his understudy Scott Paige went on instead. Taking on a role last minute as an understudy must be daunting, but he did a brilliant job! He had Fester’s mannerisms down to a tee, and truly shone! I felt he held the show together with his lines that were directly to the audience.

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For musical theatre lovers Carrie Hope Fletcher needs no introduction, and I was excited to see her take on the unusual role of Wednesday. With her ‘resting bitch face’ and devil may care attitude her portrayal shone. She was perfectly complimented by Grant McIntyre, as Pugsley.

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However Dickon Gough stole the show for me, as the zombiefied butler Lurch. His slow movements and grunts received many a laugh, as did his surprise singing towards the end!

All in all a fantastic show and a delight to watch. If you only go and see one thing at the theatre this year make it this! You will not regret it!

The Addams Family is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday.

 

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Sister Act took me to heaven.

My idea of heaven is spending the evening at the theatre watching a good musical. And what is a more heavenly choice than Sister Act?

Sister Act is directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horward, who dance fans will recognise as the straight talking judge on Strictly Come Dancing. This assured me that I was in for a flamboyant night….which was made even more apparent by the addition of a mirror ball. I love a good mirror ball!The light from this provided the perfect backdrop to some sassy dance moves from the nuns.

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For those of you unfamiliar with Sister Act (where have you been?!) the story follows aspiring night club singer Deloris Van Cartier, who witnesses her boyfriend and powerful gang leader Curtis kill someone. While waiting to stand trial she needs a safe place to hide, and ends up as a nun in her local convent. The lead role was played by Alexandra Burke, best known for the powerful voice that won the X Factor in 2008. But Whoopi Goldburg (who played the role in the beloved film version) is a hard act to follow. It is very obvious that Alexandra has a fantastic singing voice, but how would she do acting wise? The answer is brilliantly. She proved she is a talented comedy actress, and did the larger than life character justice. Whoopi bought Deloris to life on the screen, and Alexandra bought her to life on the stage, and made the character her own. I was very impressed!

One of my favourite characters in Sister Act is the long suffering Mother Superior, played by Karen Mann. She had her exasperation down to a tee, especially in the scene when the choir sing the new song for the first time. And the scene where she has a bit too much wine and questions what God has in store for her raised more than just a few chuckles in the audience.

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Joe Vetch did a fantastic job as ‘sweaty’ Eddie, who is in love with Deloris. I especially liked the scene where he imagines just what he would say to her if he had more confidence. You really are rooting for him to get the girl.

The sweet young nun Sister Mary Robert was played by Sarah Goggin. For such a slight girl she really has a powerful voice, which was put to good use with the amazing songs throughout the show.

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The main characters were perfectly backed up by a fantastic ensemble, many of whom played their instruments live on stage, switching effortlessly from dialogue, to song, to music. It is such a talent to be able to do all three well, something which the whole cast did.

So, if you want to be taken to heaven, and to escape the modern world for a few hours I highly recommend this show. A real audience pleaser and one that I would happily see over and over again!

Dreaming of Dreamboats and Petticoats.

When I walked into the theatre to see Dreamboats and Petticoats I was sure that I had seen it before. The stories of Bobby, Laura and their friends felt familiar to me, and as I have seen so many musicals I assumed it was one that I had watched before. However a few minutes in I realised that when I remembered was slightly different – and I had actually seen the sequel to this show – Dreamboats and Miniskirts. So instead of watching the correct way, with Bobbie and Laura as teenagers turning into adults my viewing was a bit back to front. It didn’t spoil the enjoyment though!

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Dreamboats and Petticoats is set in the swinging sixties, and follows the stories of teenage aspiring songwriters Bobby and Laura. It is known as a ‘jukebox musical’, featuring popular songs from the fifties and sixties. For the majority of the audience it was a nostalgic walk down memory lane, taking them back to their teenage years spent down the local youth club or listening to music with friends. This was obvious from the singing that went on all around me, with audience members joining in with their favourite pieces. By the end there was not a single person still sitting, as the desire to join in with the dancing and singing took over. The actors actively encouraged this, with Elizabeth Carter, who played Laura, even pausing during her song ‘Why must I be a teenager in love’ to let the audience sing the chorus. I must say I love it when there is audience participation and you are encouraged to sing and clap along. People go the the theatre for an escape, to be transported into another era, place, or world. I found myself fully immersed in the story, and though I wasn’t born in the sixties I was still able to sing along to most of the songs. They are timeless, and will be around for generations to come to enjoy.

 

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Elizabeth Carter did a superb job at portraying the hopelessly in love Laura. I felt sure that most of the women in the audience could relate to the gwarky teenager, with glasses, pigtails and braces, who mooches around after Bobby. Who can’t remember their first crush?!

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Bobby was played by Alistair Higgins who was a fantastic singer and musician. Infact one of the things I liked the most about this show was that the music was played live on stage, by the actors themselves. It shows just how talented they were that they could go effortless from a scene involving all dialogue to singing and playing a musical instrument.

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Along with Bobby and Laura the show followed the stories of Laura’s brother and Bobby’s best friend Ray (David Luke), Sue (Laura Darton), Norman (Alastair Hill), and Donna (Gracie Johnson). The group all worked well together, in particular during the youth club outing to the seaside.

If you want a bit of escapism, a nostalgic trip back to the era of rock and roll, flouncy skirts and petticoats, and bright lipstick, then I highly recommend this show.

I had the time of my life at Dirty Dancing.

Whenever I go to the theatre I am always amazed just what can be done with lights and sounds. These tools are so important when bringing a book or film alive on the stage. They have the power to make it rain or snow inside, to bring trains, planes and cars alive on the stage, and make us believe we are in the middle of a bustling city, quiet forest or outerspace. With lights and sound effects the impossible becomes possible, and you can transport your audience wherever you want.

This was really shown during the performance of Dirty Dancing, which I saw at the Bristol Hippodrome. Everyone knows the film, and in particular the iconic scene where Baby is lifted out of the water by Johnny. It’s such an important scene, that it couldn’t be missed out of the stage version. But how do you get a lake on stage?! This is where the cleverness of lights and sounds come in. The effect of shimmering lights and a sheer curtain created the lake, while the sounds of water and splashing added to it. Granted, everyone in the audience knew that it wasn’t a real lake, and that they were just landing on crash matts behind the curtain, by I was impressed by the way they set the scene up, and if you were lost in the moment you could transport yourself to that lake in the mountains.

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I (along with almost every female in the audience) certainly approved of the casting for Johnny. Lewis Griffiths had a lot to live up to – it can’t have been easy to follow in the footsteps of PatrickSwayze. But he managed it. Lewis can certainly dance, and shake his booty, which he did at every opportunity. But judging by the cheers and whistles from the audience they were not complaining! He also bares a lot of his body, so ladies if you are heading to see this show then you have that to look forward to!

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Baby was played by Katie Eccles, who portrayed the young daddies girl perfectly. She worked well with Lewis, and they seemed to fit together. Katie is also a great dancer, and it takes talent for a great dancer to pretend they are not (when Baby is learning to dance). And I was so pleased when right at the end of the show, after the iconic line ‘Nobody puts Baby in the corner’, they did that famous lift.

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Carlie Milner did a great job playing the troubled Penny, and my heart broke for her during the scene following the abortion. She showed just what it must have been like for unmarried young women in that time who found themselves pregnant and alone.

The dancing, as you would expect, was dynamic. Helped along by all the classic tunes found in the film. The dancers were impressive, breaking out the high speed routines and making it look effortless.

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Thank you to the cast and to the Bristol Hippodrome for transporting me to Kellermans, and bringing to life one of my all time favourite films. I highly recommend this show!

Thoroughly Modern Millie bursts onto the stage.

I think I might have a new contender for my Top Ten Musicals list. This highly competitive list has pretty much been set in stone for years…..until yesterday. I am now facing the difficult decision of which one to drop, as Thoroughly Modern Millie storms onto the list, after I saw it at the Bristol Hippodrome.

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It is rare that I will attend a musical at the Hippodrome that I haven’t seen before. I am a musical theatre buff, and have been watching shows for years. Even if I haven’t seen it on stage I will more than likely have watched the film, or read the book that it is based on. However I had no idea of the plot to Thoroughly Modern Millie, and actually enjoyed sitting through a show that was completely new to me. And what a fab show it was!!

The musical is set in America in the 1920’s, and follows the story of feisty (modern) Millie, who moves to the city with one plan – to find a wealthy boss and marry him. Though she is very fond of the penniless Jimmy she’s determined to marry her boss Trevor. But there is a flaw to her plan, as Trevor loves Millie’s new best friend Dorothy Brown. All four are thrown together to defeat evil landlady Mrs. Meers, who schemes to sell orphaned girls (including Dorothy) into slavery.

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I love a baddie, and so it is no surprise that my favourite character was Mrs Mears, played by Lucas Rush. In true pantomime baddie style he portrayed the character well, and played up to the boos he received during the curtain call. I especially liked the comic expressions on his face when he was caught out speaking in his usual voice, instead of the high pitched voice he uses for his disguise of the Chinese Mrs Meers. His catchphrase ‘Sad to be all alone in the world’ certainly raised a few laughs! There were some great scene involving Mrs Meers and two reluctant helpers Ching Ho (Nick Len) and Bun Foo (Andy Yau), including a fantastic scene where they sing a song in Chinese, with the words appearing on a scene above their heads.

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The lead role of Millie was played by Joanne Clifton, who won Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, so I knew she could dance. She had so much energy during Millie’s dance routines, sparks almost seemed to fly off her tap shoes. She also had a lovely singing voice.

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A highlight of the show for me was when Millie’s boss (and the guy she has her sights on) Trevor Graydon, played by Graham MaccDuff, believes he has been stood up by Dorothy and gets very drunk. This was hilarious almost slapstick routine, and all credit to him for his performance. The audience certainly found it funny, and he received a well deserved loud round of applause for it.

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Thoroughly Modern Millie is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday, and if you want a rip roaringly good evening out I suggest you get down there pronto!

Curious things are happening in Bristol.

Someone killed Wellington the dog, and Christopher Boone is going to find out who did it.

Years ago while searching for new books to read a friend recommended that I read The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, by Mark Haddon. I settled down with it am was instantly hooked. It is told from the point of view of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old who has asperger syndrome. Christopher is a gifted mathmatician, who struggles identifying with other people. He doesn’t like to be touched, cannot read feelings or emotions, and takes everything literally. When his neighbours dog is killed with a pitch fork Christopher takes on the role of his idol Sherlock Holmes to find out who did it – and ends up uncovering another mystery that takes him complelty out of his comfort zone.

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When I heard that Curious had been made into a stage show I was keen to see it, and could not picture how it could make the transition from paper to stage. However from the moment it started to the curtain call it was an emotional rollercoaster of lights, sounds, and movement.

Usually I start my review by focusing on the actors, but this time I have to talk firstly about the director Marianne Elliott. The way that the book was bought to life was incredible, and using the technical aspects of theatre she created a world that drew you in, and made you feel part of it. Christopher is anxious in public, and doesnt like to leave the safety of his house. Watching the performance you really felt his anxiety, especially in the scene where he goes to London, and tries to catch the tube. Combining strobe lighting, with noise, lots of people running around and the effect of the train really made me feel quite anxious, and my heart was beating. I understood then how difficult and confusing Christopher must find the world, as I did feel quite disorientated myself.

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Christopher was played by Scott Reid, who on his curtain call was given a well deserved standing ovation. It must be a difficult role to play, as Christopher is a complex character. Reid really showed his vulnerable side, and his confusion at the world around him. I especially liked the scene where he is talking about his dream of becoming an astronaut where he is picked up by the ensemble and moved around. This, together with the lights and projections of constellations on the walls gave the appearance that he was floating.

Curious has a very simple stage, that is in the shape of a cube. It is minimal, with the actors sitting on the sides until their parts. However – that is where the simplicity ends. The walls of the cube are used for drawing, illustrating Christopher’s fears and thoughts. Maths equations often appear, as do faces, maps, and words.

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The other actors complement Christopher, and take on multiple characters. They are used as props, and move Christopher and other objects around.

I was hugely impressed by this performance, and judging by the cheers and applause at the end I wasn’t the only one. On the way out of the theatre words such as ‘amazing’, ‘thought provoking’ and ‘impressive.’

If you are going to see this show (which I really urge you to do), I would advise you not to leave straight after the curtain call!

Grease is definitely the one that I want!

Ask me to name an iconic musical from my childhood, and Grease would be one of the top runners. I watched the film over and over again, and grew up singing the songs. I remember dancing to You’re The One That I Want at many school discos, and while most of my friends wanted to be Sandy I was more taken with the character of Rizzo.

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Even though I am a (self appointed) proud member of the Pink Ladies I have only seen Grease on stage once – in Torquay in 2002. So I was very much looking forward to seeing it again, 15 years later at the Bristol Hippodrome. I took my friends daughter Sienna, who represents the new generation of Grease lovers. At the age of 7 she has fallen in love with it, and knows the words to all the songs. (She is also with me in favouring Rizzo). It’s lovely how Grease is a musical that spans the ages, and on arriving at the theatre I looked around and saw people from 7 to 70 in the audience.

Grease is set in an American High School, and for those of you unfamiliar with the story (where have you been hiding?!) it follows love birds Danny and Sandy, and their respective gangs – the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds. Grease was first seen on Broadway in 1972, but it wasn’t until it was made into a film in 1978 staring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John that it’s popularity rocketed.

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The role of Danny is a big one, and following in the steps of John Travolta must be difficult. For this show Danny was played by Tom Parker, the singer of pop band The Wanted. It’s true that his Danny was very different from Travolta’s….but that didn’t seem to bother the audience. He had an obvious enjoyment from playing the character, and a great voice, for songs such as Summer Nights and You’re The One That I Want. I really enjoyed the movie scene, where he belts out Oh Sandy accompanied by very comic gestures.

Sandy is another big role, and Newton-John big shoes to fill. However Danielle Hope more than met my expectations, and I felt was had the best voice out of all the cast. And my favourite character Rizzo was played by ex-Eastender Louisa Lytton, who had her sass and swagger down to a tee. Especially during the comical (and slightly cruel) Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee, where she mocks Sandy.

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But fabulous acting and singing aside, for the majority of the audience the best part was the four minute song Beauty School Drop Out – where American superstar Jimmy Osmond played the role of Teen Angel. This was hilarious (and somewhat cheesy), as he appeared on the stage in a shiny silver suit, and played a guitar that shot fire out of the end. It was clear the audience adored him, and he played up to it, which elicited cheers and whistles (along with some bemused faces from the younger people).

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Grease is such a feel good musical, and I was not disappointed by this show. I left the theatre with a great big smile on my face, and my Grease sound track turned up high in the car.

Gangsta Granny – fun for kids (and big kids!)

I’ve always delighted in going to the theatre from a young age. It started with the panto – every year my parents would take us to our local theatre to watch it. As I got older this progressed into musicals, and before long I was a real theatre addict…and still am today.

Introducing children to the theatre at a young age can be tricky. You have to ensure you get the right kind of production – one that is not too long so that you don’t lose their interest, and one that they can understand, follow, and enjoy. With this in mind I took 4-year-old Rowan to see Gangsta Granny at the Bristol Hippodrome.

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It’s Friday night and Ben knows that means only one thing – staying with Granny! There will be cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake to eat and Ben knows one thing for sure – it’s going to be soooooo boring! But what Ben doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret – and Friday nights are about to get more exciting than he could possibly imagine, as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny!

Gangsta Granny is the stage adaptation of the best selling book by comedian David Walliams. That alone guarantees it will be funny! The show follows 11-year-old Ben as he is forced to spend Friday evenings with his boring granny.

I thought I would write this review with a little help from Rowan, who absolutely loved the show. His thoughts are in bold:

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Granny is funny! She eats lots of cabbage soup and keeps farting!

What is it about little boys and farting?! They just seem to find it hilarious! Throughout the show there is a lot of farting, which kept Rowan (and the other little boys in the audience) entertained! Louise Bailey was the stand in Granny for the night, and was a firm favourite with the audience. Her exaggerated actions got a lot of laughs, and she was the central part of the show, even when not on stage.

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Ben and Granny climb up a toilet to steal the jewels! They might get covered in poo!!

Again – the obsession with poo and toilets! The scene where they try to steal the crown jewels was very amusing. It was a pretty average plot, but the acting of Louise, and Ashley Cousins (who plays Ben) really bought it to life. The pair bounce off each other, and their partnership was great. I think this was Rowan’s favourite scene, and it was the one that got the most laughs from the younger ones in the audience.

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Look at the funny costumes! Ben can’t dance like that – he looks silly!!

Ben’s parents are big fans of Strictly Come Dancing, and to keep them happy (and cover up for his plans to rob the jewels) he takes part in a junior dance competition. In one scene we were treated to Ben in a range of ridiculous and flamboyant outfits, put together by his mum. Ben’s parents were a great double act. Played by Rachel Stanley and Ben Martin, the parents are over the top, exaggerated, and funny. They even appear in the audience for some scenes.

So Gangster Granny is a real family show, and for the final review it’s over to Rowan:

That was really funny! Can we go and see it again please?!

 

Go Go Go Joseph!

The thing I love about musical theatre the most is that it transports you away from normality into a world where people express their feelings through song and dance. For the few hours I spend watching a musical I forget about everything else, and it is a real feel good factor. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in particular feels just like a hug, and it makes me really happy. I mean, what is not to love about an amazing multicoloured coat and lights that change colour to match the mood?!

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Joseph was one of the first musicals I ever saw, and it is still firmly in my top 5. Watching the show is like catching up with old friends, and I can sing along to all the songs (apologies to all who sit near me as I am definitely not blessed with a voice even remotely close to an angel!)

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The show is on at the Bristol Hippodrome at the moment, staring a Joseph in the title role. Remember Joe McElderry who won The X Factor in 2009? Well he certainly had a lot of fans in the audience, as he received the biggest cheer when he walked out on stage for the opening number! Joe has a really sweet face and voice, something that is fitting to play Joseph. Joseph is someone the audience really likes, and are rooting for to succeed. Joe has the nice guy act down to a fine art, and his lovely smile won over the audience alone! He looked like he was enjoying every moment of the show, which is important for the leading actor.

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Joseph is a different type of musical, as it is one of the few that is purely full of songs, and no dialogue. Everything is sung. The musical follows the story of Joseph, the youngest (and favourite) son of Jacob. His 11 brothers (big family!), get a touch of the green eyed monster, and so sell Joseph as as slave and tell their father that he has died. We follow Joseph’s rise from slave to Egyptian hero. The story is narrated through song by a narrator, and in this case that was Lucy Kay. The narrator is an important part, and they are rarely off the stage. Their job is to pull the audience in, and keep them feeling part of the story. I think that Lucy did a great job. She had a really clear and confident voice, and kept the story flowing.

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And finally I couldn’t finish this review without a mention of the rocking Elvis Pharaoh, played by Ben James-Ellis. This is a role for someone to really have fun with, and Ben certainly did that. The song Pharaoh’s Story, where he tells Joseph about his dream,received the biggest cheer of the night. And so did Ben’s energetic dance moves!

So if you are looking for a musical that is full of colour, catchy songs, and laughs Joseph is the one for you! Now…..where can I find myself a multicoloured coat?!

Blood Brothers – a 10 year obsession!

The same but different….people have always been fascinated with twins. Add to that the fascination with what characterises a person, and it is clear to see why Blood Brothers is one of the most popular musicals of all time.

The Nature vs Nuture debate is one that divides opinion, and is one of the most popular debating subjects. Is a persons development predisposed in their DNA, or is the majority of it influenced by their upbringing and environment? This is a topic that has fascinated me for years, and even led to me writing my University dissertation on it. As a Drama and English student I looked at three plays, that had been adapted for the stage and were centred around this debate. One of them was Blood Brothers, and from the moment I first sat in that theatre and the opening song “Tell Me It’s Not True” rang out I was captured.

Blood Brothers is the classic Nature vs Nuture scenario. Twins Mickey and Eddie (Edward) are born to a working class mother, who cannot afford to keep them both. She gives one away to her wealthy employer, and the show follows the twins as they grow up. Their different backgrounds take them in opposite directions, with one going to prison and one attending University before becoming a councillor. A question the audience are left asking is would things have been different if Mickey was picked from the pram by Mr Lyons, instead of Eddie?

I was excited to see Blood Brothers for the 5th time, this time at the Bristol Hippodrome. It is one of those musicals I could watch over and over again.

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The role on Mrs Johnstone is a popular choice for actresses. I have seen this role played by Linda Nolan, and Melanie Chisholm (Spice Girl Mel C), and others such as Carole King, Stephanie Lawrence and Petula Clark have put on the apron and taken audiences by storm. For this production the lead role was taken by Lyn Paul, and it was certainly in safe hands! Voted the definitive Mrs Johnstone she first took on the role in 1997, and has reprised it regularly. She really drew you in to the story, with the ability to suit both the haunting song “Tell Me It’s Not True” and the funny Marilyn Monroe. I was mesmerised by her performance from start to finish, and would even go as far as to say she has been my favourite Mrs Johnstone to date!

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I’ve always thought that one of the best roles to play in theatre is Mickey. How many times does a grown man get to run about on stage pretending to ride a horse, shoot an air riffle and play Cowboys and Indians?! As a hyper active seven year old Mickey dominates the first half the actor playing him certainly needs a lot of energy. Luckily this is not something that Sean Jones lacks, and he threw himself into the role. He really made the contrast between the happy seven year old Mickey and the depressed adult Mickey stand out, which is something that is difficult to do. Sean made the audience laugh out loud in the first half, and then shed a tear or two for what happens to Mickey in the second half.

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Eddie, or Edward as he is called by his parents, certainly seems to have got the best end of the deal with his upbringing, he wants for nothing. Nothing that is….except to be like his best friend Mickey. Especially when he falls in love with Mickey’s girlfriend Lynda. Mark Hutchinson’s portrayal was spot on, especially when he shows the delighted seven year old Eddie learning new words from his new friend and blood brother – words which he then looks up in the dictionary, much to his parents shock! We also saw the soft side to his when he tells Lynda (Danielle Corlass) that he loves her, and when he tries to help her when Mickey leaves prison and becomes reliant on prescription drugs.

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For a 5th time seeing this show I was certainly not disappointed by the cast, and I would seriously recommend everyone goes to watch this. It is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until April 22….you will not be disappointed!!