Blood Brothers – Leeds Grand

BLOOD Brothers must be in the running for best musical of all time.

Phantom Of The Opera, Les Miserables and a host of shows from the Broadway golden age could compete for the title.

And I’m sure the votes of mainstream audiences would see Wicked and a host of jukebox spectaculars up there in the top ten.

But how many shows could you sit through again and again without fidgeting in your seat for even the odd moment?

The songs might all be terrific, but what about the bits in between, the comedy, the drama, that help fill the stage time?

Blood Brothers works on almost every level, a a faultless blend of words and music, all from the pen of Willy Russell, presented with an almost-perfect blend of realism and theatricality, and with a very strong sense of place.

All this and more, certainly enough to get the audience on its feet in every theatre, on every night, of a tour that has been going almost non-stop for more than two decades.

There I was again this week in Leeds, knowing every word from more than two dozen previous visits, yet willing to be surprised and excited by a show that never tires.

This must be the first time in years I’ve seen Blood Brothers without a Nolan sister in the lead role of Mrs Johnstone.

But the leading lady we did get was someone special indeed, Lyn Paul, the former New Seekers singer who over the past 18 years has wowed the West End in the role and become the definitive Mrs Johnstone.

And yes, she was very good indeed as the working-class mother-of-many, trapped into giving away one of her twin babies to the middle-class wife she works for.

Rarely does an actress get dragged through so many emotions, from joy to despair, warmth to ice-cold, love to rage, all the while shadowed by the guilty-conscience rhymes of the Narrator.

Mrs Johnstone brings up Mickey on the breadline while twin brother Eddie gets posh houses, boarding school, university, and a brighter future.

In this modern-day Greek tragedy the boys become friends, bonding as seven-year-old blood brothers then falling for the same girl in their teens.

The final tragedy is foreshadowed in the opening scene, both men lying dead on the floor, but it’s still a shock when it comes.

And while you never leave the theatre smiling after Blood Brothers, you’ll certainly be exhilarated, and checking when it’s returning to your region.

• Until Saturday. Visit or call 0844 8482700 to book tickets.