BLOOD BROTHERS, Shubert Theatre. Pop stars are funny creatures. David Cassidy and Petula Clark bring to the touring Broadway musical Blood Brothers not only name recognition but watchability, supported in large part by our memories of them from records and TV. Neither of these 60s icons can act, sing, or dance well enough to get cast at a decent regional theater, but their presence almost makes palatable this sloppy mix of superstition and sociology.
Willy Russell's ballad opera about the ill-fated reunion of two siblings lacks the detail and credibility of his Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine; what might have been a divertingly quirky one-act is padded to almost three hours of pulpy platitudes to qualify for the Les Miz sweepstakes. The story of a charwoman who sells one of her twin babies to the rich lady she works for, Blood Brothers claims to address significant concerns about class conflict and nature versus nurture. But Russell muddies his material with occult references before building to a melodramatic shootout straight out of a 30s movie.
Cassidy is very funny in the first act, cavorting as the seven-year-old poor brother; he's a hardworking, likable entertainer, though his superficiality limits his character's development from happy-go-lucky kid to doomed young man. Cassidy also deserves credit for sheer chutzpah, showing his face in public so soon after the publication of his ridiculous rehabilitated-rock-star confessional C'mon, Get Happy . . . . Clark, looking damn good for 62, displays a plaintively pretty voice as the mother, but dramatically recalls Dorothy Parker's description of Katharine Hepburn running the gamut of emotions from A to B--except Clark only makes it to A-minus. Deftly handling the verse narration is Mark McGrath as an all-purpose singer/storyteller/policeman/milkman/gynecologist.
Now this guy could get hired at a good dinner theater.