Aug. 3-5 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. at the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center’s
For Heather Miller, seeing “Blood Brothers” in 1993 at New York City’s Music Box Theatre was an unforgettable experience.
“I couldn’t stand fast enough to applaud that wonderful musical,” she recalled.
It’s taken decades, but Miller is bringing the award-winning British show to the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center, where she will direct an all-teen production Aug. 3-6.
Miller said the audience should expect both laughter and tears during Willy Russell’s epic tragedy.
“We laugh and we cry, sometimes both in the same breath,” Miller said. “The story reveals humor, complexity, circumstance, fate – all of the classic elements of drama, reflecting the ripples in the water of our lives.”
Staging such social commentary – set in a different decade in another country – with a cast entirely comprised of actors ages 13-19 was a challenge, but Miller said she saw such potential during last year’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” that she wanted to push her students to learn more this year. She said she chose the show as a teaching vessel for what she says is an extremely talented group of young performers.
“I knew they could sing and dance,” she said. “I chose ‘Blood Brothers’ to teach them to act, to sing in character, and to truly become storytellers with words and body language.”
Set in Liverpool, “Blood Brothers” tells the tragic story of twins secretly separated at birth. A pregnant woman whose husband has left her with seven children to support discovers she is expecting twins. Unable to provide for two more children, she agrees to surrender one of the twins to the childless woman whose house she cleans.
The boys grow up at opposite ends of town, not knowing the truth as they become firm friends and eventually fall in love with the same girl. One prospers while the other falls on hard times. An ever-present narrator warns that a price must be paid for separating the twins – the lives of blood brothers who will die on the day they find out the truth.
In Carrollton’s production, the mothers are played by Maggi Reese Hines (Carrollton High School ’17), and Ally Murrah (Carrollton High ’17), who are understudied by Emily Blair and Anna Lowry (Carrollton High). The brothers are played by Alexander Talley (Oak Mountain Academy) and Jackson Newbern (Carrollton High).
The love interest of the boys, the character Linda, is played by Savannah Rose Leftwich (2017 homeschool graduate), understudied by Bremen High School’s Sophie Tisinger. The rock opera-singing narrator is played by Douglas County High School’s Jake Head.
One of the many challenges of the young performers was the wide character arcs. Each leading role changes and ages as the actors cover a 25-year span of their characters’ lives.
“From the selection of this show through to casting and rehearsal, our focus has been on challenging these young actors to build honest characters with organic reactions,” Miller said.
To that end, the teens have been paired with mentors from Carroll County Community Theatre, who have worked with the young actors on their characters while Jeffrey Thomas coached them in dialect. Haralson County High School Theatre Director Mark Stitch designed and built the scenery, and costumer Nan Stephens created character costumes from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Local musician Ed Thrower has brought the musical score of the “play with music” to life, Miller said.
“The music in Blood Brothers enhances the characters and enriches the story,” she said. “However, this is the musical for people who aren’t necessarily fans of musicals.”
“Blood Brothers” will run Aug. 3-5 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. at the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center’s Danny Mabry Theatre. Understudy performance is Friday, Aug. 4. Tickets are $10 each, available at www.carrolltonarts.org . Tickets often sell out at the door, so pre-sales are encouraged. For more information, call the arts center at 770-838-1083.