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


American Tour:
September '94-May '95

September 5-18Dallas, Texas
September 19-25Cleveland, Ohio
Sept. 26-Oct. 9Chicago, Illinois
October 10-16Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
October 17-23Columbus, Ohio
October 24-30St. Paul, Minnesota
Oct. 31-Nov. 6Grand Rapids, Michigan
November 7-20New Haven, Connecticut
Nov. 28-Dec. 3Hershey, Pennsylvania
January 2-8Washington, DC
January 9-15St. Louis, Missouri
January 16-29Denver, Colorado
Jan. 30-Feb. 5Sacramento, California
February 6-11Costa Mesa, California
Feb. 13-March 12San Francisco, California
March 13-26Los Angeles, California
March 27-April 2San Diego, California
April 3-9Baltimore, Maryland
April 17-23Miami, Florida
April 24-30Tampa Bay, Florida
May 1-6Atlanta, Georgia
May-14Richmond, Virginia
May 15-21San Antonio, Texas

Tour review excerpts:

Dallas

"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."
--Jerome Weeks

     "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."
--Lawson Taitte

Chicago

"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."
--Sid Smith

"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."
--Chris Jones

"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."
--Hedy Weiss

Columbus

"Pop stars Cassidy, Clark are highlight of Blood Brothers"
Tim Feran

Cleveland

"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."

Grand Rapids

"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
Christopher Scapelliti

Washington

"An unaffected and charming performance by '60s pop star Petula Clark. Clark looks terrific and still possesses a powerhouse set of pipes."
--Pamela Sommers

Sacramento

"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."
--Peter Haugen

Costa Mesa

"Clark whose voice remains appealing is less brassy than Stephanie Lawrence, who preceeded her on Broadway. She gives a warm and credible performance."
--Laurie Winer

San Francisco

"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.
--Steven Winn

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."

Los Angeles

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."
--Rob Stevens

"Clark has a charming sincerity and, still, the clear and lovely voice of a goddess."
--Travis Michael Holder