By LORRAINE WARDLE
Top Hat Productions kicks off its new season with an old favorite. “Blood Brothers,” a hit Broadway musical, was produced at Top Hat eight years ago and has become one of its most-requested shows. The revival of the popular play opened Friday night to an appreciative audience.
“Blood Brothers” is a dramatic musical set in 1960s London. It tells the story of twin boys who are separated at birth. They grow up in different neighborhoods and in different social classes. Against the odds, they find each other and become best friends, never knowing that they are twins.
As the boys grow up, their lives take different directions, but they can’t be kept apart. Each boy wishes to be like the other, and their lives include parallel events. In the end, the stark reality of class disparity overcomes the brothers, and the audience is reminded “that a price has to be paid for separating twins.”
The story is told by the Narrator, a mysterious figure who gives insight into the characters and their motivations. Aaron Franek played the Narrator with a creepy confidence as he flowed in and out of the action onstage. Franek’s singing was powerful. Unfor- tunately, there seemed to be problems with his microphone, and it was difficult to understand him throughout the performance.
Brandy Johanntges played Mrs. Johnstone, the single mother of seven who works hard to give her children a good life. Johanntges created a strong character with an equally strong singing voice.
Brian Palumbo and Bill Marr played the twins Mickey Johnstone and Edward Lyons at various stages in their lives. As 7-year-olds, the two were believably sweet and precocious without going over the top. At times, you forgot they were actually grown men, not small children.
As the play continued, Palumbo and Marr portrayed the boys at 14, full of angst and uncertainty, and as young adults. By the end, they have become very different people, and Palumbo’s emotional portrayal stood in stark comparison to Marr’s solid composure. Throughout the show, the two men showcased their impressive singing voices and harmonized perfectly.
Julie Palumbo’s Mrs. Lyons was a privileged upperclass woman who had everything she wanted – except a child. Palumbo gave an emotional performance with a beautiful singing voice.
As Mr. Lyons, Matthew Schomer went beyond the stereotypical British father, as he showed compassion and grief throughout the play. He also got to show off his singing chops in his Act 2 performance.
Angel Febres gave a strong performance as Mickey’s older brother, Sammy, and Marlene Figley was sweet as Mickey’s love interest, Linda.
An ensemble of actors completed the cast, notably Anthony Villa, who proved to be a valuable performer as he portrayed multiple memorable characters.
“Blood Brothers” is presented as a dinner-theater experience. Included in the ticket price is a delicious dinner created by the staff at Selah restaurant, complete with dessert.
“Blood Brothers” continues Friday, Saturday and Oct. 4 and 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Fairview Arts & Outreach Center, 4220 Youngstown-Poland Road. For reservations, go to brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.