Blood Brothers New Theatre, Oxford until Saturday

I'M told Blood Brothers is the Marmite of musical theatre - you either love its intensity and want it as often as possible, or find it cloying and want to avoid it at all costs.

I've just had my fourth helping in as many years and still can't understand those who talk of a bitter aftertaste. For me, the ingredients of bright comedy and profound tragedy combine to hit the spot every time. As taste buds tingle at the idea of something good to eat, my tear ducts react in much the same way, filling up at the very thought of what's coming next.

For those who've never seen it (why?), Willy Russell's tale of love and hardship in 1960s Liverpool tells of twin brothers separated at birth - one raised in extreme poverty, the other in a wealthy household - and how their paths differ and cross as they grow up.

Sean Jones has played the pivotal role of Mickey in every one of the performances I've seen and he only gets better. His transformation from mischievous, happy-go-lucky kid playing on the streets, to broken, drug-addled deadbeat walking those same streets for work, is agonising to watch and hasn't lost any of its intensity over the years.

The other key role - that of Mrs Johnstone - is taken by former New Seeker Lyn Paul in this production and she has all the crucial elements it demands; a haunting singing voice and the ability to yank at the heartstrings with alarming frequency. Whether they were her genuine tears in the climactic closing scene matters not - they were convincing enough to have the rest of us reaching for the tissues (or, in my case, sobbing uncontrollably most of the way home).

Blood Brothers has been running for 29 years this year, plenty of time to perfect the timing and fine tune characterisation.

The role of narrator demands a chilling demeanour and Kristofer Harding is suitably sinister as he casts his shadow of doom across the story. Joel Benedict as posh twin brother Eddie and Danielle Corglass as the third side of the love triangle, Linda, inject some necessary laughs and their fair share of sorrow as their carefree lives gradually take a turn for the worse.

In fact, none of the hard-working cast can be faulted, keeping the fast-paced tale sweeping along to its powerful conclusion.

Blood Brothers is on in Oxford until Saturday. It might not be to everyone's taste, but those prepared to feast on its emotions will be richly rewarded. Marmite sandwiches are optional. MICHELLE TOMPKINS