Willy Russell: Blood Brothers (musical)
Background information

The musical Blood Brothers was first performed in the Liverpool Playhouse in January 8, 1983 and was later transferred to London where it has run for a number of years. It is one of the most successful London musicals ever.

Amazingly the author did not just write the script and the lyrics, but he also wrote the music. As he points out in the introduction, "I want to write a musical", people usually stared at him in disbelief when he told them about his plans. He describes his frantic attempts to write songs that were "hummable" and how, in the end, both audiences and critics responded favourably.

"Blood Brothers" has an intricate end 'theatrical' plot. When Mrs Johnstone's husband leaves her pregnant, again, this time with twins, she realizes that her plans for the future will come to nothing. Her childless employer, Mrs Lyons persuades her to sell her one of the babies. Edward Lyons and Mickey Johnstone grow up in very different families (upper middle class and working class), but fate bring them together. When they realize they were born on the same day, they use a penknife to become 'blood brothers'. Later they both fall in love with the same girl, Linda, but when Linda and Mickey become lovers and get married, Edward hides his true feelings. Mickey loses his job and is drawn into crime by his brother Sammy and he ends up being sent to prison for seven years. He returns a broken man, dependent on drugs to keep his depression under control. Linda asks Edward, who is now Councillor Lyons, for help. Eddie admits his feelings for her and they start having a sexual relationship. When Mickey finds out, he wants to take revenge. In the council chamber he learns that Edward is really his brother. As predicted by Mrs Lyons, the two brothers die "on the self same day": Mickey shoots Eddie and is then shot himself by the police.

The plot of the musical is presented by an omniscient narrator who keeps reminding the audience that there is no escaping the devil, there will be a "reckoning day" and "there is no getting off without the price being paid".

The song "Summer sequence" bridges the gap between the two protagonists' childhood and adulthood: between when they meet and compare their lives, and Linda's pregnancy which eventually leads to disaster for the three friends. In Shakespearian style, the initial sin - selling the baby- sets the wheel of fortune in motion and tragedy ensues.

Summer sequence

Vocabulary bob (BE, informal, old) coin worth one twentieth of a pound - lamb baby sheep - chippy (informal) referring to a fish-and-chip shop - glare strong light which makes your eyes hurt - to predict to say what will happen in the future
Listening for the gist Listen to the music rather than to what the narrator is saying.
1. What ideas do you associate with the various musical excerpts?
2. Why do you think the music is interrupted again and again?
3. What effect does this have on you, the listener?
Listening for detail Now listen to the narrator rather than the music.
1. What sequence is the narrator talking about in the song title "Summer sequence"?
2. What does the narrator say about being a teenager?
3. The narrator actually refers to the main characters and part of the plot of the musical. What do we learn about the characters and the plot from the song?
Close-up: vocabulary/language 1. Arrange the words you could identify into two different groups: positive ideas/dreaming and negative ideas/reality breaking in.
2. What ideas does the narrator convey with the words: lamb - bottles - oil - weather?
3. "They care not for what's at the end of the day". What's unusual about this construction? Why do you think Willy Russell chose it?
A step further Find one example of a song which deals with being a young person. Look in your parent's and friends' music collections as well as your own. Present the song in class.