There really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to musical theatre.

Blood Brothers (Harvest Rain Theatre Company)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

August 1 – 17

“Blood Brothers” is an epic musical that tells the tragic story of Mrs Johnstone and her two sons Mickey and Edward, who are separated at birth and accidentally (and unknowingly) reunited years later. As their lives continue to interlace, the disparity between their working class and privileged existences creates a very human story. Willy Russell’s script offers humour and despair. However, the foremost appeal of the Harvest Rain production currently showing at QPAC, is the quality of its casting; every performance is engaging.

The narrative of “Blood Brothers” is ambitious, with the show spanning almost three decades. As such, characters sometimes age five years from scene to scene. At first, the inclusion of narrator appears cumbersome; however, as the story crescendos to its tragic conclusion, the necessity of the device becomes clear. Amanda Muggleton gives an emotional performance as the poverty stricken, desperate mother, Mrs Johnstone. However, it is the performances of ‘blood brothers’ Zack Anthony Curran and Shaun Kohlman that are most notable. From their comical portrayal of 7-year-olds to the intensity of their depiction of the inner turmoil of their lives as young men, these actors are impressive.

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Performances aside, this is a musical. Though the familiarity of the old guard of Rogers and Hammerstein et al can be comforting, what makes for a truly memorable musical experience  is to have previously unknown songs resonating for days afterwards.  Such is the case with the show’s haunting, heartfelt concluding number “Tell Me It’s Not True”. This was similarly so, subsequent to seeing Oscar Theatre Company’s “Next to Normal” earlier this year.  It is difficult to contemplate the appeal of a musical about a family grappling with the effects of mental illness, however, its catchy lyrics and rousing rock score are persistent, especially “I’m Alive”.  Indeed, both “Blood Brothers” and “Next to Normal” are proof that there really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to musical theatre, which surely has to be a good thing. 

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