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Blood Brothers hits the stage at Theatre Alliance

by Lenise Willis

There’s nothing like the bond of blood; family is family, whether they’re annoying or not. One production that explores this inexplicable connection, and other familial and socio-economical themes, is Blood Brothers, which will be performed by Theatre Alliance of Winston-Salem this week.

The show, which ran as a hit for 30 years in London, is based on a classic rags-toriches story. A struggling mother gives up one of her twin boys for adoption, trusting him to a woman whose house she cleans. The boys grow up, each not knowing that they have a twin, and meet two different fates: one prosperous and the other poor. One day, their lives become intertwined when they fall in love with the same girl.

“I love the story and the music,” said director Jamie Lawson. “It reminds me so much of Les Miserables. It is hauntingly beautiful.”

“I think Blood Brothers is one of those shows that runs the gamut of emotions, to which I attribute its success,” Lawson said. “It is a show about how our daily decisions, no matter how big or how minute, can have great consequences. You care for these characters; it is easy to invest in them, as their situations are very real. That makes us connect with them pretty immediately and quite viscerally. It makes for a powerful evening of theatre.”

Performing as the twins are John C. Wilson and Adam Plant. “They are doing a terrific job with the material, which spans the ages of 7-20,” Lawson said.

Though the characters are twins, and the two actors do share the same innocent look, Lawson said they didn’t create a special audition process for the parts. The main concern was not that the two actors looked alike, but could handle the part itself.

And since the twins seem to be the antithesis of one another, looking different works well in the play and helps to literally highlight how different the two boys are.

“With Blood Brothers, I love the idea that each brother represents what the other wants or needs,” said Wilson, who plays the part of twin Eddie. “Eddie craves the freedom and danger of Mickey (his twin), while Mickey needs the stability and structure that Eddie has. They are two sides of the same coin. It’s such a beautiful illustration of the connection that the boys have, but of which they are unaware. They are literal complements to each other.”

Of course, it probably helps that the two actors are close outside of the theatre realm, adding a special dynamic to the part. “The progression of the brothers’ relationship – from young boys to young men – is so poignantly written, and I’m looking forward to exploring the depth of these characters with my real-life childhood friend, John C. Wilson,” said Plant, who plays the twin Mickey.

“I saw Blood Brothers for the first time in 2011, when I was studying abroad in London,” he added about why he was drawn to take part in the play. “I didn’t know the story going in, but I loved it so much that I ended up seeing it twice more over the course of the semester. I think this is an incredibly timely piece of theatre that we are doing. It delves into themes of privilege, nature vs. nurture, the unfairness of life, and asks the question: can a person’s circumstances really help determine who they are?” Wilson added to Plant’s sentiment, saying, “I am very excited to explore this complex and complicated relationship with my stage brother, Adam Plant, and I hope that we will be able to do justice to the story of the Johnstone twins.”

As far as other tricks or scenic design surprises, which Theatre Alliance is known for, Lawson said the production is designed to not detract from what makes the play so grand.

“I think the story and the music stand alone, and I want the audience to focus solely on those elements, so we are presenting a production that highlights those,” he said.

“We just want our audience to be entertained by the show,” Lawson added. “It has themes of class structure, social hierarchy, brotherhood, and morality, but in the end, it is highly entertaining to see the journey these people take.” !

LENISE WILLIS, a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill’s journalism school, has experience in acting and ballet, and has been covering live performances since 2010.

WANNA go?

Theatre Alliance presents Blood Brothers Wednesday through Sunday at Theatre Alliance, 1047 Northwest Blvd., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $18 for adults; $16 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information call 336-723-7777 or visit wstheatrealliance.org. Production is rated R for mature language, adult themes and violence.

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