THE return of Blood Brothers to its spiritual home of Liverpool is always a theatrical event to remember.
And so it proved once more when the acclaimed show arrived at the Empire for a 12-night run.
Blood Brothers is one of theatrelands big hitters but nowhere does it receive a bigger and warmer welcome than in its home city.
Lyn Paul triumphed in her return to a role she has forged unbreakable ties with but this is, sadly, the final time the former New Seekers singer is performing the part she has become synonymous with.
At the Empire she was simply breathtaking.
From 'Marilyn Monroe' to 'Easy Terms' and the emotionally-charged tragic finale 'Tell Me It's Not True' she carried off the production's showpiece numbers in the definitive style that has made the part of 'Mrs Johnstone' virtually her own since she first appeared in Blood Brothers way back in 1997 in the West End. She has reprised the role regularly over the years and now, at 70 years of age, this is her Blood Brothers swansong. What a way to say farewell.
But it would be too easy to say Ms Paul stole the show. She did, of course, but local actor Alex Patmore's Mickey-take as one of Mrs Johnstone's sons had the audience enthralled.
From the young Mickey - care free and happy-go-lucky - to the hurt and tormented soul that he was to become as an out-of-work adult consumed with depression, Patmore pulled off a quite sensational performance, tugging at every heartstring along the way as he battled the demons that life threw Mickey's way.
Alex, who played Bobby Willis in Cilla - the Musical, trained at the Liverpool Theatre School. He was outstanding here in his home city.
Robbie Scotcher as the 'Narrator' carried the whole thing through with cool aplomb - his reprise of 'Shoes Upon the Table' sending a constant shiver of emotion through the audience.
The story may now be a familiar one but it has lost none of its energy - or poignancy - as the years have rolled on. Twin brothers, Mickey and Edward, are separated at birth and brought up in completely different environments in Liverpool - Mrs Johnstone keeping Mickey while Edward is 'adopted' by the wealthy family Mrs Johnstone cleans for.
Those environments take the twins to opposite ends of the social spectrum, but they remain 'Blood Brothers' thanks to chance meetings throughout their young lives. They both fall in love with the same girl, causing a rift in their friendship and, as the story unfolds, leads to the death of both brothers. That's no spoiler by the way, as the show opens in sombre mood with the brothers lying dead in the street, their tragic tale about to unfold.
Other stand-out performances came from Joel Benedict as Edward, Danielle Corlass as girlfriend, Linda, and Danny Taylor as Mickey's older brother, Sammy.
Willy Russell's Blood Brothers shows no sign yet of fading away. Far from it, but catch it while you can in its home city - it runs at the Empire until September 14.
10/10 - captivating and exceptional - it remains a must-see theatre experience
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