The latest Melbourne production of the musical theatre classic, Blood Brothers, has a strong Irish connection. The producer, Enda Markey, is from Dublin, and one of the stars, Bobby Fox, is from Longford.
Blood Brothers – written by Willy Russell who also wrote Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine – tells the story of the Johnstone twins. Separated at birth when their mother cannot afford to keep them both, Mickey and Edward grow up streets apart, becoming best friends but never knowing the truth of their heritage.
“It’s one of the longest running musicals in history,” Markey tells the Irish Echo. “It ran in London for 24 years. After Le Mis and Phantom of the Opera it’s the longest running musical in history, longer than Cats and Chorus Line or any of the other ones people assume are the longest running.”
This is first professional production of Blood Brothers in Australia in around 20 years.
“I’ve pulled all the creative team together. It played in Sydney earlier this year and was a really big success. We sold every single ticket that was on sale and extended the season. We could have doubled the length of the season by the end of it, but the theatre wasn’t available,” he says.
Markey is delighted to be working with Bobby Fox. “He’s Mickey, the brother Mrs Johnstone keeps. He grows up with fewer opportunities.
“He meets his twin accidentally as seven-year-olds and there’s this bond that pulls them together throughout their lives. Bobby is really incredible in this. People will be excited to see what he does. It gives him an opportunity to show what a great actor he is. I can’t wax lyrical enough about how good he is in the show,” he says.
Blood Brothers has played regularly in Ireland for more than three decades. “It is a kind of cultural phenomenon in Ireland. It first played there in 1984 and goes back every three years or so. Late last year they had a season, starring Rebecca Storm, who always plays Mrs Johnstone when it goes to Ireland.
“I first saw it at the Olympia in Dublin when I was nine. As I say in the programme for the show, it remains one of the most defining theatrical experiences of my life. I worked with Rebecca Storm in the late ‘90s as well, when she was playing Mrs Johnstone at the Gaiety in Dublin, and I’ve seen it a couple of times since then too.”
Blood Brothers opens at the Alex Theatre, St Kilda, on July 16.