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STAGE REVIEW Brilliant performances highlight 'Brothers'



Published: Fri, June 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A highly talented cast was showcased in the musical's regional debut.

By GARRY L. CLARK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- There are times in life when a theatrical production reaches out and grabs you by the throat, compelling you to listen to its message. "Blood Brothers," which opened Thursday night at the Oakland Center for the Arts, is such a production.

The deeply moving, profoundly touching musical tells the story of twin boys whose lives diverge at birth, one to a life of privilege and the other to poverty. Though unaware of their true relationship, the two forge a friendship that withstands years of separation until a tragic prophecy reunites them.

Cast: Starring as the brothers were Thomas C. Kusiowski as Mickey and Matthew J. DiBattiste as Eddie, both of whom gave impeccable performances. Kusiowski's accent, in particular, was perfectly borrowed, flawless rendition of the character of Lister on the PBS British series "Red Dwarf." DiBattiste's rendition of a more cultured Englishman was also right on the money. The two were in excellent vocal form as well for this light rock opera, their voices matching and blending effortlessly in the duets "Long Sunday Afternoon" and "That Guy."

Also in superb vocal form was Geri DeWitt-Tichnor as Mrs. Johnstone, the twins' mother. Both her acting and singing were brilliant, and her role seemed to be tailor-made for her as her strong voice belted out the lyrics in "Marilyn Monroe," "Easy Terms," "Bright New Day" and "Tell Me It's Not True."

Giving an outstanding performance as Mrs. Lyons, the adoptive mother of the other twin, was Kathy Virgallito.

Narrations by Sam Perry were well done, although difficult to hear in a few places, and Leah Pringle was perfectly cast as Linda, a friend of the twins'.

Rounding out the cast were Tom Hathhorn, Mike Miller, Liz Owen, Ben Solomon, Starr McClure and Jen Kenney. Choral renditions were well-balanced along with the close harmonies required.

Director's skill: Director Brendan Byers has shown a high level of skill in casting this production with actors who imbue their characters with rich vitality and believability from beginning to end.

Musical direction by Michael Moritz was right on target, as was the musical talent portrayed by his fellow orchestra members, Ed Burden and Lake Baum.

"Blood Brothers," in its regional debut here, is a haunting musical drama that will leave its audiences emotionally charged as well as highly proud of the tremendous talent it is showcasing.




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