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Cassidy Siblings Pump Up Audiences For `Blood Brothers'

BLOOD BROTHERS Musical by Willy Russell. Starring David Cassidy,

Shaun Cassidy, and Petula Clark. At the Music Box Theatre.

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POP culture aficionados and nostalgia buffs will no doubt experience a frisson of delight upon encountering the marquee of the Music Box Theatre in New York, which announces the presence of David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, and Petula Clark as the new leads in the musical ``Blood Brothers.''

This turgid British musical melodrama has been given a major box-office boost with the casting of these performers - despite the Tony nominations it received, no one expected it to be around this long.

The show, written by Willy Russell (``Educating Rita''), is a commentary on the British class system, and tells the story of twin brothers, raised separately at opposite ends of the financial spectrum, who become friends and whose lives intersect tragically. Despite its flaws, ``Blood Brothers'' was carried along by the strength of its three original leads, particularly Con O'Neill as the poorer brother, Mickey, - his intensity gave the material a power that transcended its silliness. The current performers are unable to match their predecessors, which is no surprise, but they do give the evening something it lacked previously - star power. The throngs of delighted theatergoers are a testament to that.

It can also be argued that what the new cast lacks in serious acting ability it makes up in singing talent. The show certainly sounds better (and it's hard to resist an impulse to call out ``Downtown'' to Clark or ``I Think I Love You'' to David Cassidy, two past hits by those singers). Incidentally, the show requires David and Shaun to spend a good part of their time onstage pretending to be infants, a prospect that should delight many of their female fans.

The trio acquit themselves honorably, and it's good to report that the Cassidy brothers haven't lost their looks, nor Clark her voice. Also fine is Richard Cox, who plays the Narrator with persuasive force.

Whatever the quibbles, this trio has kept a show alive on 45th Street, which has suffered so many Broadway closings that it looks like a ghost town. ``Mixed Emotions,'' ``Twilight of the Golds,'' ``Wonderful Tennessee,'' and ``The Kentucky Cycle'' have all been recent casualties, so the achievement of ``Blood Brothers'' is nothing to sneer about.

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