Blood Brothers Comes to High School
by Sherilyn Bogatz
Normally, when you go to see a high school musical, you don’t expect intense drama or bloodshed. But that is exactly what you should expect from Blood Brothers, which plays at Laguna Blanca School through April 30. Blood Brothers, which tells a dark fairy-tale story of twins separated at birth against the grimy backdrop of 1960s Liverpool, is not just a departure for the school. It is also a local premiere for this musical drama, which has never been produced in the area. Blood Brothers began as a play in the early 1980s and first reached large audiences when its author, Willy Russell, reworked the story as a musical. After a hit run in Liverpool, the play took London’s West End by storm. In the last 20 years, this challenging piece has only gained in stature, as it continues to attract sellout crowds to both the West End and its touring production.
The play’s director, Peter McCorkle, fell in love with the show when he saw it in London two years ago, and brought it back to Santa Barbara as his spring 2006 choice for his Laguna Blanca students. McCorkle is the reason that the school’s drama program is known for its sophisticated and adventurous programming; but even by his standards this show will be an edgy one. “The audience will be beaten up and in tears by the time the show is over,” he told me, and, having participated in the rehearsal process now for several months, I can wholeheartedly agree with his estimation of the play’s emotional impact. Even though McCorkle has asserted an “if the audience doesn’t like it, tough” attitude, it is obvious that he cares a lot about the show’s success and its 19 actors.
The cast has found Blood Brothers to be very different from what it collectively refers to as the “happy fluffy bunny” genre of high school musicals. Being part of such an intense drama has been “difficult, because sometimes we have to convey emotions that we haven’t actually experienced,” said chorus member Jackie Kiefer. But it has also been “an opportunity for the actors who would never make the choices their characters make to see the consequences that arise as a result,” according to Felicia Palmer, who plays Linda. The students have developed close friendships while preparing Blood Brothers, and have taken part in “a dramatic experience we have never had before,” according to Spencer Klavan, who plays Edward. Due to mature content, parents are advised that this show is not appropriate for younger children. To the older kids in the cast and crew, this is great news and a sign of artistic freedom that outshines even Grease. Kameron Tarlow, who plays Mickey, predicts it will “blow Santa Barbara away.”
4•1•1 Blood Brothers runs from Wednesday, April 26 to Saturday, April 29 at 7 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, April 30 at 2 p.m. Performance are at Laguna Blanca School’s Hope Ranch Campus, at 4125 Paloma Drive. Tickets are $10.