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Absolute readies production of musical ‘Blood Brothers’

January 11, 2019 GMT

With the holidays now past, Kathy Keech has her cast of “Blood Brothers” humming — or singing — along.

The Absolute Theatre production of the musical opens Jan. 17, which means Keech and the 10-person cast had to navigate the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays during the rehearsal season.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge,” Keech said just before Christmas. “We arranged the schedule pretty well, so I feel really good about where we’re at.”

Plus, on Jan. 2, rehearsals moved from a cramped classroom to the main stage at Rochester Civic Theatre, making preparations somewhat easier.

“Blood Brothers” won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical when it opened in 1983 in London. A London revival in 1991 ran for 24 years and 10,000 performances.

The story revolves around two brothers who are separated at birth and later fall in love with the same woman.

“This musical is really one of my favorites,” Keech said. “I find it to be so compelling and meaningful.” The show moves from humor to drama, placing demands on actors who also have to be able to sing.

In casting the show, Keech said, “I was basing a lot on the vocal auditions. But somebody has to be able to play drama and comedy.” There’s also a need to play various ages of the same characters.

Keech has cast Eli Hansen and Lucas Simonson as the brothers, with Stef Stafford and Rebecca Sands as the mothers who raise them.

Also in the cast is James Douglass, who was in the show when the Rochester Repertory Theatre staged it about 20 years ago.

The musical is popular, Keech said, because “As an audience member, you run the gamut of emotions.”

Absolute is staging “Blood Brothers” with a different twist. “The way we’re doing this, you have the ending at the beginning,” Keech said. “You can do it either way. I think this works.”

While the play has its origins in the United Kingdom, Keech said there are few “Britishisms” that need to be translated. “I don’t think there’s a lot you wouldn’t catch,” she said. “Maybe a few words here and there. But I think the story itself is so universal.”