NEW YORK NEWSDAY
September 24, 1993
BY ALL RIGHTS, Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" shouldn't work. A contemporary prince-and-pauper musical tragedy set in Liverpool, it's overlong by a fourth, boasts two songs worth a damn, no dancing, grown actors playing children, shuddery portents of doom, rhyming verse monologues and enough shmaltz to keep the Carnegie Deli in chopped liver well into the next century. It also wipes me away, without fail, every time.
Judging from the damp Kleenex count in the audience by the curtain call, I'm in good company. Regrettably, new audiences cannot revel in departed British cast members Stephanie Lawrence, Mark Michael Hutchinson and Con O'Neill, whose vivid performances camouflaged a multitude of blemishes. There are a number of consolations in the revised cast, not the least of whom is Petula Clark, who makes her Broadway debut in thrilling vocal form as a working-class mother who gives away one of her twin baby sons to a wealthy housewife out of economic necessity. Clark's dramatic range has always been somewhat limited, but she throws herself body and soul into the part with ultimately affecting results.
The gimmick of casting real-life brothers Shaun and David Cassidy as the. brothers Johnstone garners mixed rewards. If Shaun is no great shakes as a youngster, he grows in credibility as the privileged brother ages. David, by contrast. is a gutsy revelation as the poor but plucky Mickey, navigating the path from exuberant youth to depressed adulthood with a depth of feeling we never knew he had in him. The price of David Cassidy's hard-earned maturity is that it makes us feel oh-so old. Whenever Petula Clark sings with that precious Surry lilt, however, we're younger than springtime.
Photo by Gary Schmidt
September '94-May '95
|September 5-18||Dallas, Texas|
|September 19-25||Cleveland, Ohio|
|Sept. 26-Oct. 9||Chicago, Illinois|
|October 10-16||Pittsburg, Pennsylvania|
|October 17-23||Columbus, Ohio|
|October 24-30||St. Paul, Minnesota|
|Oct. 31-Nov. 6||Grand Rapids, Michigan|
|November 7-20||New Haven, Connecticut|
|Nov. 28-Dec. 3||Hershey, Pennsylvania|
|January 2-8||Washington, DC|
|January 9-15||St. Louis, Missouri|
|January 16-29||Denver, Colorado|
|Jan. 30-Feb. 5||Sacramento, California|
|February 6-11||Costa Mesa, California|
|Feb. 13-March 12||San Francisco, California|
|March 13-26||Los Angeles, California|
|March 27-April 2||San Diego, California|
|April 3-9||Baltimore, Maryland|
|April 17-23||Miami, Florida|
|April 24-30||Tampa Bay, Florida|
|May 1-6||Atlanta, Georgia|
|May 15-21||San Antonio, Texas|
Tour review excerpts:
"Clark is a revelation. Hers was among the finest female pop voices Britain produced in the '60s, and it remains an astonishing, instrument: beautiful, powerful, pure."
"The lion's share of the vocal chores fall to Ms. Clark, and she's smashing. As the twins' birth mother, she plays a sympathetic character with unforced warmth.
She has 10 songs and reprises, including heart-wringing ballads such as Easy Terms (when she gives up one child for adoption) and Light Romance (when two of the characters step over the line and provoke the tragic ending.)
Even when social theories raise their ugly heads, Ms. Clark can make the audience forget all about them by lifting up her voice."
"Clark is a great strength. Her milky, trademark coddling of a melody subliminally calls to mind the '60s of much of the setting, and while still in full beauty, her voice is now seasoned with a bittersweet edge."
"As Mrs. Johnstone, the spirited loving mother of the twins, Petula Clark is sublime. Her superb vocal gift and fine craft as an actor come together as never before. Utterly retaining its piercing clarity and vivid emotional range, her voice is as beautiful as ever, and it is a rare treat to hear and see such an artist. She has a remarkable sense of deliciously restrained passion and truth that is entirely suited to the role she plays. Her unique ability to delicately convey both supreme joy and exquisite pain with intense power and conviction , is the awesome vehicle that carries the evening with potent and precious incandescence."
--Dominic Hamilton Little
"I have seen Blood Brothers several times before, and this new touring version of the tale of two twins separated at birth in class-conscious Liverpool is probably the best production yet. The basic design and direction remain intact from the London original, but previous incarnations did not have Petula Clark's remarkable performance at their heart. Her throaty soulful voice is only part of the pleasure. Clark is also a very fine actor."
"Clark, petite and relatively unchanged since she was the princess of pop three decades ago, is wonderful--an unfussy actress whose voice, with its distinctive little catch, is more expressive and powerful than ever."
"Pop stars Cassidy, Clark are highlight of Blood Brothers"
"Petula Clark and David Cassidy can turn straw into gold. . .then there's Clark, working her own brand of magic. Hair a pale, frizzy halo, she stands a solid, loving presence, giving Russell's standard pop tunes mesmerizing intensity and warmth. Her Mrs. Johnstone is a realist, but also impulsive and emotional."
"Clark is wonderful in the role of the misguided mother, bringing to the part, besides her unusually expressive vocal delivery, a bit of the comic amidst the tragic."
"Petula Clark is a show stealer as the apron-wearing fertile Myrtle with a heart of gold."
--Carmen S. Scheidel
"An unaffected and charming performance by '60s pop star Petula Clark. Clark looks terrific and still possesses a powerhouse set of pipes."
"The best is a lovely folk lament called Easy Terms Sixties pop star Petula Clark, playing the twins' mother, gives it a haunting bittersweet lilt."
"Clark whose voice remains appealing is less brassy than Stephanie Lawrence, who preceeded her on Broadway. She gives a warm and credible performance."
"Clark's silvery pop voice has burnished with age and she sounds right as a bemused welfare mother who can still hope for a Bright New Day and lead the mournfullly indignant anthem, Tell Me It's Not True, that brings down the curtain with a full throated lament.
Petula Clark is absolutely convincing as the downtrodden Mrs. Johnstone, whose only real property is her sense of humor. She also belts out the hauting Tell Me It's Not True. Clark layers depth upon depth with her clear voice."
The tour stars David Cassidy and Petula Clark who also spent several months together in the Broadway production. . .they are in fine voice, their smooth pop tones tinged with gritty rock growls. They are solid actors, too.
--Daryl H. Miller
"Petula Clark is looking great and sounding better than ever as Mrs. Johnstone."
"Clark has a charming sincerity and, still, the clear and lovely voice of a goddess."
--Travis Michael Holder