THEATRE REVIEW: Melanie Chisholm in Blood Brothers at the Liverpool Empire
AVID fans of Willy Russell's tragedy will tell you they never tire of watching the lives of the doomed twins separated at birth played out on stage.
Even those who have seen the show many times would find last night's performance an entirely fresh take on the musical.
Yet the script and songs are the same, the set little changed and the ending (cue a flurry of hankies) as devastating as before.
The one difference is former Spice Girl Melanie Chishom, who is a breath of fresh air as Mrs Johnstone, the mother who gave away her son for a brighter future.
While previous encumbants of the role have tended to play her as a Scouse matriarch, the Whiston-born leading lady embues it with a youthful innocence and gentle affection.
Her age suits the character's circumstances - you can imagine her having had her first child fairly young so she's not, as some other Mrs Johnstones have appeared, close to experiencing hot flushes by the time the twins show up.
More used to performing arena-sized pop gigs than regional theatres, Chisholm belts out the songs with enthusiasm but also knows when to step back a notch - giving emotion depth to the melancholy Easy Terms and Light Romance.
She set the bar high for the rest of the cast, but they met her standards, with strong chemistry between the two brothers who have no idea they are related.
As a seven - sorry, nearly eight-year-old - Sean Jones was a lovably cheeky Mickey, aging naturally into an awkward teen and then a disillusioned man, old far before his time.
As Eddie, the boy who has every chance in life, Paul Davies complemented him well, his wide-eyed innocence at his blood brother's rejection seeming entirely believable.
Robbie Scotcher plays the Narrator as a cross-between fate and the grim reaper, all moody glances, dramatic vocals and no remorse.
Given that Blood Brothers premiered almost three decades ago it is a pleasure to see it so refreshed while remaining utterly true to the original.