“Don’t shoot him, Mickey!” The life-worn mother yells in desperation at her youngest son as his shaking hand points a gun at the man who was his childhood best friend. “For God’s sake, don’t shoot him, Mickey! You can’t! He’s your brother!”
The stage falls silent as the reality of her revelation soaks into both of the young men. “It’s true,” she continues desperately. “Twins, Mickey. You were twins. And with seven mouths to feed already, what could I do? Mrs. Lyons couldn’t have children, and she wanted one so desperately, oh, Mickey, she took Eddie, and he’s your brother! Please put down the gun.”
“My brother? Why, Ma? Why’d you do it?” Mickey cries in sudden realization of what his life could have been had he been the one given away. “Why couldn’t she have taken me instead, and then I could have had a good life! I could’ve been him and had everything!”
He raises the gun and shots are heard.
“Have you heard the tale about the Johnstone twins?” the narrator asks from his perch on a step. “Separated at birth, they were born on the same day, and they died on the same day.”
In City Theatre’s presentation of Blood Brothers by playwright Willy Russell, author of Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, we find the answers to the question of what happens when two brothers are separated at birth, finally meet and become best friends and then fall in love with the same girl. The answers are not pretty, but they are intriguing.
Set in Liverpool, England, between 1965 and 1989, Blood Brothers is a classic British rock musical, incorporating a live, three-piece onstage band. With traces of Jesus Christ Superstar and early 1980s pop music creeping their way through the Liverpool-textured sound, each song takes the audience one more step in a journey through working-class England as the story follows these two boys as they battle the twists and turns of fate their mothers have set in motion for them.
“After all,” sneers the narrator in his knowing, self-righteous tone, “a deal has been struck, and a pact has been sealed. Now there was no way to stop the hand of fate.”
The production, directed by Sacramento City College theater arts instructor and local actor/director Luther Hanson, is a colorful and vibrant one, despite its somewhat less-than-cheerful subject matter.
The play manages to shine with a cast of 16 actors and an ensemble belting out tune after tune on the subjects of love, life and loss.
David Holmes manages a powerful and moving performance in the role of Mickey, the brother who was kept and who grew up in the crime-filled streets of Liverpool. Holmes offers impeccable transitions of his character from a 7-year-old boy to the down-on-his-luck man he would become.
Likewise, Jason Stevens in the role of Eddie Lyons, the brother who was given away and raised in the lap of luxury and privilege delivers a strong, convincing performance.
Taking the part of Linda, the beautiful young woman who comes between Mickey and Eddie and seals the fate of the brothers, is local actress Phoenix Vaughn. Vaughn offers a delightful performance with smooth transitions from the bubbly schoolgirl in love with Mickey, to the woman torn between her love for her troubled husband, Mickey, and her growing love for Eddie.
Martha Omiyo Kight and Monica May are perfect in the roles of the mothers who set the twisted wheels of fate in motion. Kight’s strong, entrancing vocals mix with those of Jeremiah Lowder in the haunting role of the Narrator and the voice of fate and regret, forming the foundation for the musical aspect of the show.
The performance lags at several intervals, and some blocking seems forced if not simply implausible, perhaps because of awkward set design—a street lamp is placed two feet in front of the seating on one part of the stage, partially obstructing the audience’s view.
Though Mickey and Eddie may meet a forlorn fate, the fate of City Theatre’s Blood Brothers looks promising. Outstanding performances, live music and excellent choreography make this a production worth venturing out in the cold to see.