The Grange Performing Arts Center3823 V St.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Blood Brothers is an ’80s musical about twins separated at birth, mothers with secrets, social disparities, colliding worlds and brotherly bonds. It’s an odd, not-well-known musical that shouldn’t work by its description and storyline, but ends up a compelling, suspenseful and satisfying show.
Green Valley Theatre Company’s production of Blood Brothers adds to the allure of this peculiar, yet haunting, musical by combining an exceptionally talented cast under the watchful eye of director Carly Sisto with an impressive six-member live orchestra.
The story, based in early ’60s Liverpool, starts with a narrator (the rich-toned Mark Ettensohn) describing the story’s conclusion (a double killing), and then brings the audience back to the beginning. A cleaning woman, Mrs. Johnstone (hauntingly played by Lauren Ettensohn), is pregnant when her husband walks out on their large family. Her employer, Mrs. Lyons (a multilayered Sara Haugland), can’t have children. So when it’s discovered that Mrs. Johnstone is carrying twins, a scheme is born, twins are divided, and the brothers are brought up in two different worlds.
The plot, which entails the brothers finding each other and becoming secret best friends without knowing their true relationship, does require a leap of faith and suspension of disbelief, but once established and accepted by the audience, it’s both emotionally captivating and entertaining. And the soundtrack is notable, not for its catchy tunes, but rather for clever lyrics in the songs that add to the atmosphere while advancing our knowledge of the characters.
Eric Alley and Elio Gutierrez portray the fraternal twins at various ages from 7 to late teens; both deliver heartfelt performances. The two successfully tackle the extremely hard task of capturing young characters without making them seem cloying, sappy or overly awkward. They are joined in the childhood and teen portrayals by two additional talents—Mary Katherine Cobb as the scrappy tomboy who wins both the twins’ hearts, and Nathan Stewart as Sammy, the rebel.
A live orchestra, performing under the solid direction of Christopher Cook, caps off the production. Here, six skillful musicians not only provide accompaniment to the songs, but also add a subtle and evocative soundtrack that emotionally pulls story and characters together.