Say it's just a story...
Blood Brothers is a musical written by playwright Willy Russell, about twin brothers—Mickey and Eddie—who are Separated at Birth by their mother, Mrs. Johnstone, who can't afford to raise them both, and her barren employer Mrs. Lyons. They are brought up in two vastly different environments, on opposite ends of the social spectrum. As children, they meet and become best friends, never finding out they are brothers until the day of they die.
Russell is not a trained musician at all, but wanted to write a musical to call his own, and wanted it to be purely his, not a collaboration. It has become one of the most popular and long-running shows in West End history.
This musical contains examples of:
- Adolf Hitlarious: When Edward meets Mickey and Linda, they tell him that whenever they're caught by the cops, they tell them that their name is Adolf Hitler. Edward pulls this on a real policeman (twice), only for it to backfire.
- Alpha Bitch: Mrs Lyons when she emotionally blackmails Mrs Johnstone into letting her keep Edward.
- Anti-Love Song: "I'm Not Saying A Word", Eddie's song to Linda about how he's not going to tell her how he feels about her. It takes a seriously skilled actor to make this song work.
- Baby as Payment: Mrs. Johnstone, desperate for money after discovering that she's got twins coming, agrees to sell one of the unborn twins to her employer, Mrs. Lyons, who desperately wants a child. When the twins are born, Mrs. Johnstone has a change of heart, but Mrs. Lyons comes to collect the baby anyway.
- Blood Brothers: Right there in the title. When Mickey and Eddie meet as children, they decide to become Blood Brothers to solidify their best friend-ship.
- Catchphrase: The narrator often says or sings "Now you know the Devil's got your number" whenever one of the mothers is feeling guilty.
- Dark Reprise: While "Shoes Upon the Table" is already a very dark song to begin with, the Narrator returns every now and then to reprise it, with somewhat different lyrics, as the brothers' lives comes closer and closer to ending, until he reaches the final reprise, "Madman", when, as he says, "[The Devil]'s calling your number up TODAY".
- Another example is the song "Marilyn Monroe". The first time it's sung, it's Mrs Johnson who's described as being "sexier than Marilyn Monroe". That continues in the second reprise. However, the final reprise is sung more slowly and this time it's about Mickey, whose tablet taking and depression is described as being "just like Marilyn Monroe".
- Deal with the Devil: The agreement Mrs. Johnstone makes with Ms. Lyon is explicitly compared to a deal with the devil, with "Shoes Upon the Table" emphasizing how the price will eventually come due.
- Disappeared Dad: The opening number explains how Mr. Johnstone walked out on his wife.
- Downer Ending: Mickey kills Eddie and is then shot by the police, having only just found out that they're actually brothers by birth instead of just by the oath they made.
- Dramatic Irony: The audience knows from the start that Mickey and Eddie are twins, but they don't learn this until the end.
- Ethereal Choir: Used to hauntingly beautiful effect in the Overture.
- Foregone Conclusion: As noted elsewhere on the page, it's revealed right at the beginning of the play that Mickey and Eddie end up dead; the story's in how that happened.
- How We Got Here: The first scene has a re-enactment of the final scene: the two brothers lying dead.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Mickey threatens Edward with a gun he doesn't know is loaded, and accidentally shoots him.
- Inherently Funny Words: "Tits". At one point, after seeing a dirty picture with Mickey, Eddie keeps giddily repeating it over and over.
- Interactive Narrator: Depending on the direction for a given production, the Narrator of this show can be played similar to this.
- Intrafamilial Class Conflict: The contrast between Mickey and Eddie's respective working-class and middle-class upbringings is the main source of conflict in the narrative.
- Jerkass: Mickey's secondary school teacher. For example:Perkins: Sir!Teacher: Oh, shut up, Perkins, y' borin' little turd.
Mickey: Eddie, just do me a favour an' piss off, will ye?
- Mickey counts as well once he is made redundant.
- Jump Scare: Depending on the production, the gunfire at the end can be this.
- The start of 'Madman' can be this as well, as it comes immediately after the reprise of 'On Easy Terms'.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Mrs. Lyons wants nothing more than her own child, but they can't conceive and her husband refuses to adopt. Mrs. Johnstone, meanwhile, has "seven hungry mouths to feed and one more nearly due" which turns out to be twins.
- Love Triangle: Type 7 between Mickey, Eddie, and Linda. She ends up marrying Mickey after he knocks her up, whilst Eddie is away at university. When Mickey is arrested and becomes a pill-popping mental case, Linda turns to Eddie for help and comfort, and the two begin a chaste pseudo-affair.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Take A Letter, Miss Jones" is a bright, upbeat, happy song sung by Mr. Lyons the factory manager as he dictates letters to his secretary, each of which fires another employee. Then he fires her. Not to mention the first part of the song coincides with the wedding of Mickey and Linda.
- Meaningful Name: Johnston is a rather common surname in England, emphasising the family's lower-class status, but the variation makes it seem down to earth (stone). Meanwhile, Lyons invokes the image of a pride of lions, and pride is definitely something Mrs. Lyons values heavily.
- Miles Gloriosus: While trying to impress Eddie, Mickey and Linda claim that they always Troll the cops with obviously fake answers and rude responses (for example, they say Adolf Hitler when asked for their name). Once a copper approaches them later, Eddie acts that way while his friends freak out.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: A rare male example: after Mickey's Sanity Slippage, Linda has an affair with Edward; Mrs. Lyons tells Mickey, who blows Edward away.
- My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Lyons, as if to compensate for the fact Eddie isn't really her son. This is especially the case when it comes to Mrs. Johnstone and Mickey, who she worries are going to try to steal Eddie back.
- No Medication for Me: While Mickey wants to stay on his meds, they're encouraged to quit by Linda and his mother.
- Ode to Apathy: Played with in the song "I'm Not Saying a Word", where Eddie sings to Linda about how he'd win her heart if he were dating her, all while insisting that he's not trying to woo her, because he knows that Mickey's after her, even though Mickey Cannot Spit It Out.
- Oop North: The musical is set in Liverpool and the Royal Liver Building is a key part of the musicals logo. The contrast between life in the slums where Mrs. Johnstone lives and the affluent part of Liverpool where Mrs. Lyons lives drives the plot of the first act. At the beginning of the second act the Johnstone family have been moved to a much nicer council house as part of the slum clearance campaign which actually happened during the post war rebuilding of Britain during the late 1960s and 1970s.
- Parental Abandonment: Subverted in that Mrs. Johnstone wants to continue to be part of Eddie's life at first, but Mrs. Lyons won't let her.
- Played straight with Mr. Johnstone who abandons his family while Mrs. Johnstone is pregnant with the twins.
- Playground Song: This one has two! One is in the first act, so titled "Kids Game," and the other, "High Upon the Hill" is in the second act, chanted after Mrs. Lyons attempts to murder Mrs. Johnstone.
- Prison Changes People: Mickey's stint in prison as an accessory to murder turns him into a severely-depressed Empty Shell.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "But a debt is a debt... AND MUST. BE. PAID."
- Sanity Slippage: Mrs. Lyons. Crosses with a bit of Laser-Guided Karma, as after mocking Mrs. Johnstone for being a bit superstitious, she ultimately becomes far more obsessive about such things.
- Sanity Slippage Song: Presented as children singing about how "High up on the hill there's a woman gone MAD!"
- Separated at Birth: The twins, Mickey and Edward.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Despite being gender-neutral, the Narrator is always dressed in a black suit.
- She Is All Grown Up: Linda
- Shotgun Wedding: Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone, and Mickey and Linda.
- Sibling Triangle
- Spirit Advisor: In some productions, The Narrator, though it's usually played that he is on nobody's side.
- Sunday Is Boring: Mickey has a whole song about how bored and lonely his on a particularly "Long Sunday Afternoon."
- Surprise Multiple Birth: What kickstarts the plot. Mrs. Johnstone is pregnant and can barely afford to take care of one more child, so when she finds out she's having twins, she gives one to her wealthy, childless neighbour Mrs. Lyons.
- Taking the Heat: Mickey does this for Sammy.
- Teacher's Pet: In Mickey's secondary school there is a student called Perkins, who constantly puts up his hand and calls out "Sir!" for every question the teacher asks.
- Those Wacky Nazis: "Sonny's a Nazi!"
- Threat Backfire: When Ms. Lyons starts changing the deal on her, Mrs. Johnstone threatens to go to the police. Lyons shoots back that Johnstone will be in far more trouble for 'selling her son'.
- Troll: The Narrator can come off as this, especially in his interactions with Mrs. Lyons - see Gypsies in the Wood and Secrets in particular.
- Younger Than They Look: Mrs. Johnstone, who's had eight children back to back and had to deal with her husband abandoning her, as well as the poverty she is in.Mrs. Johnstone:: By the time that I was twenty-five
I looked like forty-two
With seven hungry mouths to feed
And one more nearly due