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Theater: Blood Brothers
Saturday, 2005 February 19 - 11:39 am
The Kids On Broadway program, from the North Carolina Theater, put on their annual show this week.

This was a fun show for me to attend. It brought back memories of when I was in theater in high school and college. Producer William Jones, in his introduction, said that this was what North Carolina Theater was all about, and I agree. You just can't beat the energy and excitement of a youth production, with a cast of actors and actresses performing solely for the love of the stage.

I'm always hesitant to write reviews of kids' performances, though, because I wouldn't want any negativity to spoil the dreams of an aspiring young performer. So the first thing I want to make clear is that the teenage cast of "Blood Brothers" did a superb job. "Blood Brothers" is an ambitious performance, and that's my nice way of saying that it's a pretty poorly-written show. The program touts it as "one of the all-time great British musicals". Um... really?

It's set in Liverpool, and I'll tell you, the Liverpool accent is problematic even for adult American actors. So first kudos go to the fresh-faced and energetic 16-year-old Meredith Jones in the role of Linda, who seemed to come the closest. The other accents were a mishmash of East-End, R.P., and even a bit of Irish. I can't blame the kids for this; accents are difficult, especially when one has to work them into a musical. As a director I might have made an executive decision to Americanize the accents, to avoid distracting the audience from the performance. Nonetheless, I give full marks for the effort.

It's also a pretty corny script, with Shakespearean-style narration, melodramatic freeze-frame moments, and a story line that's all too predictable. But Nick Devito was able to save the narrator's role from becoming a self-parody. He was my first surprise of the show: he showed a level of acting maturity that I really didn't expect. This is my first time seeing a Kids On Broadway show, and I came in expecting a bunch of awkward dialogue recitation and limp-limbed movement. Not so, especially with Devito; he delivered his role with just the right amount of restrained force. And Jenny Gulley in the role of Mrs. Johnstone will go a long, long way in an acting career; her emotional and nuanced performance was powerful.

For me, the clear star of the show was John Arthur Greene in the role of Mickey. He has a long acting résumé already, and I can see why. He has an abundance of natural talent and energy, and he also has a terrific voice. (Why aren't these kids trying out for American Idol?) I'm sure we'll be seeing more of him in the future, and it'll be cool to be able to say "I knew him when..."

As far as the production itself, it was pretty minimalist. While I enjoy the grandiose and spectacular staging of big-budget musicals (like the famed helicopter in "Miss Saigon", which was playing next door), I always found that a bare stage did more to accentuate the art of theater. I remember back when our high school troupe did a production of "Tom Sawyer" in a theater competition, we were consistently commended for our minimalist set design. Later, when a bunch of us (including the famous Javi) formed the Flaming Gorilla Theater Company, much of the set was a stack of cardboard boxes. But no one talked about that; everyone talked about the script and the acting and the really important elements.

Anyway: congratulations to the Kids On Broadway troupe for pulling off a commendable performance. I'll be back to watch again next year.
Permalink  6 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: reviewstheater


Comment #1 from (Guest)
2005 Feb 22 - 3:40 pm : #
Blood Brothers, Nick DeVito by the way is 14 years old. Why didn't you even mention Noah Putterman, the other brother in the show? and Miss Siagon that was showing next door did NOT have the infamous helicoptor in the show... only a projected image... Poor flailing Broadway Series South.... Kudos to NCT for supporting the communities young people in their avocation
Comment #2 from Ken (realkato)
2005 Feb 22 - 3:50 pm : #
There are many actors I didn't mention; I only wrote about the ones who made the biggest impression on me. Noah Putterman did a fine job as well and I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

Thanks for the information on Nick Devito's age; I don't think that was listed in the program. He's certainly an impressive performer.
Comment #3 from Danielle (Guest)
2005 Feb 22 - 11:50 pm : #
I saw Blood Brothers this weekend (trained down from NY) and loved every minute of it (saw it three times). The talent was great, the production team seemed amazing, and the production overall just blew a lot of youth theater shows out of the water. I just wanted to comment that I saw an Americanized version of Blood Brothers in NY with kids, and it wasn't nearly as effective as this production. Although I do agree that the accents wavered, I don't think that it distracted from the action but instead was one of the things that allowed the actors to go so far with their characters. For example, I think that Jenny Gulley as Mrs. Johnstone would have lost something without her accent, even if it wasn't always there in her singing. I also think the differences between the Lyons and the Johnstone's wouldn't have been as dramatic without the cockney vs. high society british affectations. I think that the accent wasn't just a valiant effort, but a really effective tool and shouldn't be demeaned just because it wasn't perfect. Good job NCT!!
Comment #4 from Ken (realkato)
2005 Feb 23 - 12:36 am : #
I marvel at the amount of attention my little review is getting.

I want to reiterate that I think the production was terrific. I don't mean to demean anyone in any way. But I also don't want to be all gushy and disingenuous. If I didn't offer some honest criticism, I think it would detract from the earnestness of my praise. For example, if I said everyone did a great job with their accents, that would somewhat devalue the extraordinary effort put forth by Meredith Jones.

I wanted to let everyone know that I really looked at this show with a critical eye, not just with the mindset of a friend or family member who could see no wrong. My intent wasn't just to say "good job!" (though certainly the cast and crew deserve the kudos); my intent was to try to provide an honest and heartfelt review. I hope people can appreciate that.

For those of you who disagree with my opinions, I respect that. I encourage you to express your own thoughts about the show. If you don't have your own web page, you can just comment here. I would challenge you, though, to really be honest, and give some constructive criticism as well as encouraging praise. That's what I've tried to do.

Comment #5 from Tommy D (Guest)
2005 Feb 25 - 4:42 pm : #
Great gig! That DeVito kid is something else! Must come from a talented genetic stock!! Theatre/vocal talents typically come from the father's side of the family....

Keep up the good work dude!!!!
Comment #6 from anonymous (Guest)
2005 Mar 12 - 11:03 pm : #
I can't believe no one mentioned Suzanna Dupree! She's been the star in the past two Kids on Broadway shows, and is by far one of the most talented kids that NCT has. She had a lead in this show, and I thought she was amazing as always. Congratulations on another great show Suzanna!

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