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Arts Club's Blood Brothers takes on "nature vs nurture" in a folky pop-rock musical

Lauren Bowler, Adam Charles and Shane Snow in the Arts Club's Blood Brothers. Photo by David Cooper.

For Lauren Bowler, playing the woman who two brothers love in the Arts Club Theatre Company's Blood Brothers is flattering for sure.

“It’s fantastic,” she enthuses. “Greatest part ever.”

The two brothers, played by Adam Charles and Shane Snow, both have history with Bowler. “There’s a comfort level there with both of them, which is helpful when you have to have intimate scenes with someone,” Bowler shared. “I went to school (at the Canadian College of Performing Arts) with Shane and have known Adam for a few years though we’ve never worked together. It’s such a bonus that the dynamic of all three of us is very strong."

Rounding out the cast is their mother (Terra C. MacLeod), the narrator (John Mann of Spirit of the West) and a talented ensemble including Lucas Blaney, Briana Buckmaster, Meghan Gardiner, Becky Hachey, Warren Kimmel, Ashley O’Connell and Jameson Parker. Team directed by Bob Frazer and Sara-Jeanne Hosie, it is truly a collaborative effort.

The lovely triple threat plays Linda in the award-winning musical playing at the Granville Island stage until December 31. It’s unusual in that Linda is mostly a speaking part, except for some ensemble singing work -- a bit of a shame, as Bowler’s voice is stellar. 

“This is different for me," she shared. “I often get cast in musicals from the Twenties and Thirties: Drowsy Chaperone twice, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes and Singing in the Rain, for example. It’s unusual but not unwelcome to not be singing that much.”

As well as being one of the few young female leads who work all the musicals in Vancouver, Bowler is the lead vocalist with the show band Famous Players and co-owner of her new business at the Westminster Quay called The Great Wall Tea Company. “This is my fifth show at the Arts Club in seven years and this spring I will be in High Society at the Stanley," Bowler explained. “(Because of rehearsals), this is the longest time period of not being in the shop since we opened.”

Blood Brothers won the 1983 Olivier Award for Best New Musical winner. Written by Willy Russell, based loosely on the 1844 novella The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas, Blood Brothers tells the story of fraternal twins who are separated at birth, with their different backgrounds sending them to opposite ends of the social spectrum. One becomes an Oxbridge-graduated councillor and the other is unemployed and in prison. Falling in love with the same girl causes an irreparable rift, leading to a tragic outcome.

Also known for writing Shirley Valentine and Educating Rita, Russell, the British dramatist, lyricist and composer, has chosen an unusual genre for the music. Bowler explained. “The music is a little bit folky. As it’s set in Liverpool, stylistically it has a bit more of a Celtic lilt to it -- very haunting. It takes it out of the pop-rock genre, like a Jesus Christ Superstar. “

Considered a musical for those that don’t like musicals, the theme is rich enough to lend itself to a healthy debate over post show drinks.

An Arts Club Theatre Company production: Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street) from Nov. 17 to Dec. 31, 2011. Monday to Saturday at 8 p.m., and Wednesday & Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $29 to $54, inclusive of taxes and fees. Call the Arts Club Box Office at 604.687.1644 or visit artsclub.com.

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