Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Blood Brothers

Also see John's review of Meshuggah-Nuns!

Rick Pena and Jason Edelstein
The Slow Burn Theatre presents Willy Russell's award winning musical Blood Brothers based loosely on the 1844 novella "The Corsican Brothers" by Alexandre Dumas. Willy Russell originally wrote Blood Brothers as a school play in 1981 in conjunction with the Merseyside Young People's Theatre (Now operating as Fuse: New Theatre For Young People). He developed the musical for a production at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983 before it transferred to the Lyric Theatre in London's West End. It debuted on April 11, 1983, and closed on October 22nd of that same year, receiving three Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. The current West End revival, which opened in 1988, is one of the longest-running musical productions in history and is still running as of 2011.

By definition, a blood brother is a male who swears loyalty to another male. This contemporary tale of two such blood brothers, set in Liverpool, revolves around fraternal twins who were separated at birth. Though the twins are raised in very different ends of the social spectrum, somehow they find one another and become best friends. Unaware of their real relationship to one another they declare that they are blood brothers. While one (Eddie) becomes an Oxbridge-graduated councilor, the other (Mickey) finds himself an unemployed factory worker in prison. When they both fall in love with the same girl, their childhood friend Linda, it sets the stage for a chain of events that tears them apart and ends in tragedy for all.

This production of Blood Brothers features a live band admirably led by music director Manny Schvartzman. The singers and accompaniment is evenly balanced throughout the musical, and there were only two brief moment on the night attended when the Narrator (Matthew Korinko) had mic issues. Slow Burn uniformly has very clean set, lighting and sound design and execution.

Though one could wish she could sing a song lyric that did not contain a reference to Marilyn Monroe, Lisa Kerstin Braun turns in a fine performance as Mrs Johnstone. She is a bit better at maintaining her accent in song than in dialogue, but is always invested in her character. She is perhaps too put together and lovely as Mrs Johnstone, however, whose rough life should show on her face. Braun captures a quietly grounded, determined quality in Mrs. Johnstone. Sabrina Gore is at first a bit stilted as Mrs. Lyons, though she manages to redirect her focus to beautifully portray the brittle, emotionally fragile nature of her character. Her brief breakdown in the second act, however illogical, is still believable. Matthew Korinko is polished as the Narrator, though his accent pops in and out. His resonant speaking voice carries the emotional intent of his words as they propel the story forward and issue warnings of retributions. At the performance I attended, he had a few vocal problems with his songs as he struggled with a high note or two, but redeemed himself with good pacing.

Lindsey Forgey (Linda) is always present—her animated expressions and attention to the changing physicality of her character at varying ages are a pleasure to watch. Rick Pena (Edward) lingers a little too long in his performance as an exaggerated child rather than a young man. He is at his best in the love song "I'm Not Saying A Word." Jason Edelstein shines as the troubled Mickey. He is charming in his portrayal of Mickey as a child at play in the first act. His accent is probably the most consistent in the show, and his second act work is packed with moments of palpable tension and angst. The closing scene of the show brings the ensemble together in an ending that is heart wrenchingly acted and achingly sung. Despite the dark nature of the script and the overuse of repetitive melodies, this is a moving production of an often overlooked show.

The Broadway production of Blood Brothers opened at the Music Box Theatre on April 25, 1993, and closed on 30 April 1995 after 840 performances. The musical received six Tony Award Nominations and two Drama Desk Award nominations, with Mark Michael Hutchinson winning for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.

The Slow Burn Theatre production of Blood Brothers will be appearing through May 8, 2011, at the West Boca Performing Arts Center. The WBPC is located on the campus of West Boca High, 12811 West Glades Rd. (3.5 miles west of 441). Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $30 for Adults, $25 for Seniors, and $20 for Students. The Slow Burn Theatre Company is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) professional theatre company hiring local actors and actresses. They are committed to bringing high quality contemporary musical theatre to South Florida, and proving that modern Broadway can rock. The company offers technical internships to local students, providing them with professional experience. For more information on Slow Burn you may contact them by phone at 866-811-4111 or online at

Mrs. Johnstone: Lisa Kerstin Braun
Mickey Johnstone: Jason Edelstein
Edward Lyons: Rick Pena
Narrator: Matthew Korinko
Mrs. Lyons: Sabrina Gore
Linda: Lindsey Forgey
Sammy Johnstone: Alex Salup
Mr. Lyons: Noah Levine
Donna Marie Johnstone: Erica Mendez
Ensemble: Ethan Eichenbaum, Sean Muldoon, Benjamin Rabin, Cherry Torres

Director/Choreographer: Patrick Fitzwater
Musical Director: Manny Schvartzman
Scenic Design: Ian T. Almeida
Lighting Design: Lance Blank
Sound Design: Traci Almeida
Costumes Design: Rick Pena
Stage Manager: Jon Jones

Photo: Gemma Bramham

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere