Blood Brothers in Concert

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Blood Brothers in Concert

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, June 28, 2016

Reviewed by Joel Benjamin for Cabaret Scenes

Beau Cassidy Photo: Maryann Lopinto
Beau Cassidy
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers was a super-hit in London and a moderate hit on Broadway. The concert version at Feinstein’s/54 Below, helped by strong performances, couldn’t hide the blatantly unsubtle, drearily melodramatic libretto.

Blood Brothers tells of Mrs. Johnston (Donna Lynne Champlin, absolutely heartbreaking), poverty-stricken, working class mother of seven whose husband leaves her, but not before she became pregnant with twins.  She works as a domestic for upper middle class Mrs. Lyons (Teal Wicks, convincingly complex) to whom she gives one of the fraternal twin boys, Eddie (Collin Kelly-Sordelet, finding heart in his white-bread role), keeping Mickey (Beau Cassidy, brooding and powerful), thus sealing their fates.
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Eddie, raised in comfort, inadvertently and unknowingly crosses paths with his troubled, poorer brother. They fall for the same girl, Linda (Hannah Elless, making the most of her short stage time), and wind up tragically killing each other. It couldn’t be more knee-jerk obvious.

Kenita Miller ably served as the Narrator telling the story as if it were some sort of portentous Greek myth, singing “Shoes Upon the Table,” foreshadowing the terrible fate of twins parted at birth. 

The songs, mostly dreary and narrative-heavy, included: several versions of “Marilyn Monroe” in which the mythical movie star became a metaphor for everything gone wrong in Mrs. Johnston’s life; “Long Sunday Afternoon,” expressing Mickey’s feelings of loneliness; “My Friend,” Eddie’s turn to lament; “Easy Terms,” Mrs. Johnston’s reaction to the blood pact between herself and Mrs. Lyons; “Kids’ Games,” accompanying violence-oriented street games; and the two final songs, “Madman” and “Tell Me It’s Not True,” which illuminated—darkly—the fate of the two twins.

Interestingly, Beau Cassidy is the son of David Cassidy and nephew of Sean Cassidy, who appeared as the brothers on Broadway and on tour.  Bob Renino (bass) and Ray Grappone (drums) were also members of the original New York company. Grant Sturiale, on piano, shared music direction with Joseph Baker. Brandon Sturiale (keyboards), completed the terrific band.

Jenny Leon, the director, squeezed all that she could out of this concert version.
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Joel Benjamin

A native New Yorker, Joel was always fascinated by musical theater. Luckily, he was able to be a part of seven Broadway musicals before the age of 14, quitting to pursue a pre-med degree, which led no where except back to performing in the guise of directing a touring ballet troupe. Always interested in writing, he wrote a short play in high school that was actually performed, leading to a hiatus of nearly 40 years before he returned to writing as a reviewer. Writing for Cabaret Scenes has kept him in touch with world filled with brilliance.