Theatre Review: Blood Brothers

Adam Charles and Shane Snow in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of BLOOD BROTHERS. Photo by David Cooper.

Alasdair and I have been attending the Arts Club Theatre performances regularly for the last two years or so, and the company has continually outdone themselves each and every time a new play or musical takes to the stage. We were once again fortunate enough to experience a performance on the Granville Island Stage, this time around enjoying Blood Brothers, deemed the musical for all time, playing in Vancouver from November 17 through to December 31, 2011. If you haven’t already secured your tickets for this show, there’s still time, but I would recommend you act quickly as once word gets out on the brilliance of this show, I imagine theatre fans will starting snapping them up!

I would deem this performance a perfect blend of play-meets-musical. There was enough talking to properly explain the plot, while perfectly complimented by the musical interludes and songs. Before the performance began I quickly scanned through the playbill to brush up on the storyline behind the Blood Brothers tale and was instantly pleased to see that Bob Frazer was co-director of the musical, alongside Sara-Jeanna Hosie. Bob Frazer has quickly become one of my favourite actors in the Vancouver performing arts scene, primarily for his most recent roles in this past summer’s performances at Bard on the Beach. I won’t go on and on about Bob (as I surely could, and have in past Bard review), but I must state that I tip my hat in his direction for the guidance he provided to the actors in the show and truly bringing out the best in each and every actor on the stage.

Lauren Bowler, Adam Charles, Shane Snow in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of BLOOD BROTHERS. Photo by David Cooper.

The acting in Blood Brothers was simply exquisite; however, I want to start with the stage and setting. The physical structure of the stage is incredibly ornate and robust, with each and every detail completed to perfection. The use of moving props, including a staircase that sweeps across the stage, yet made effortless throughout its transitions was marvelous. Naturally, the actors rose to the stage and the occasion, to dish a performance that brought down the house and the audience to their feet!

If you’re unfamiliar with the tale of Blood Brothers, my butchered version of the story is unfortunately simple. An unluckily fertile woman, Mrs. Johnstone, played by Terra C. MacLeod, finds herself pregnant after already birthing seven prior children. After her husband has left her for another woman, and discovering she’s having twins, she must make a critical decision to keep her children out of the welfare system and in her home. She decides to give one of the twins to her employer, Mrs. Lyons, played by Meghan Gardiner, a woman whose home Mrs. Johnstone cleans, on the promise that she will be able to see the child regularly. Naturally, life throws Mrs. Johnstone a few more curve balls and mountains to climb over, and ultimately she is separated from her one child. Throughout the course of their lives the twins are brought to together in friendship and sealing their bond through the blood brothers ritual of piercing each other’s hand and holding them together, mixing the blood into one. Sadly, the twins never discovered the true bond they shared.

Terra C. MacLeod, Shane Snow, John Mann in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of BLOOD BROTHERS. Photo by David Cooper.

At this point I could go on and on about the plot, but I would have to give the entire storyline away for those of you reading this whom haven’t seen the musical. The acting is truly superb, specifically the two men who play the twins, Eddie, played by Adam Charles, and Mickey, played by Shane Snow. These two men are the perfect energy force, that when joined together can transform an audience into believing they were a set of twins separated at birth, yes blissfully unaware of this fate. Adam Charles stole my heart in every scene, especially when portraying a young toddler discovering the world. Charles’ comedic timing was epically brilliant, and he often had me in stitches with a simple gesture or noise – he is definitely one to watch for in future performances!

The entire ensemble cast was outstanding, even though just a small group of actors. And the storyline was a brilliantly joyously tale that ended in unbelievably tragic circumstances. Sigh. I could definitely see this musical again.

For more information on the musical, including tickets, check out the Arts Club Theatre website.