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The Theatre Links pages provide links to Theatre resources on the net, which either provide information on the UK theatre scene in general or which include information about Lyn Paul and the musicals in which she has appeared (Blood Brothers, Footloose and Taboo).
featuring Lyn Paul
as Mrs. Johnstone.
as Mrs. Johnstone
with Warwick Evans
as the Narrator.
as Mrs. Johnstone
with Andy Snowden
Willy Russell's musical Blood Brothers was first performed at the Liverpool Playhouse on 8th January 1983 with Barbara Dickson in the role of Mrs. Johnstone and Andrew Schofield as the Narrator. The production transferred to London in the Spring, opening at the Lyric Theatre on 11th April. Although it was well received by the critics, the show did not do enough business during its opening six weeks to justify more than a six-month run. By the time it closed, however, Blood Brothers was playing to packed houses and standing ovations.
In her autobiography Barbara Dickson described the "bouts of stage fright and subsequent exhaustion" that affected her during both the Liverpool and London runs: "Towards the end of my contract, the producer, Bob Swash, and my manager, Bernard Theobald, asked me out for lunch... When they asked me if I would consider agreeing to an extension of the contract, I bowed my head and began to weep quietly right there at the table... I don't remember now if I even formally said no, but they had their answer." (A Shirt Box Full Of Songs, page 183)
In 1987Blood Brothers was revived by producer Bill Kenwright, who took his new production on a national tour of the UK. The production arrived in London the following year, opening at the Albery Theatre on 28th July after two weeks of packed-out previews. Kiki Dee starred as Mrs. Johnstone, with Con O'Neill as the Narrator.
In 1991Blood Brothers moved to the larger Phoenix Theatre, where it has continued ever since.
In 1993Bill Kenwright took the show to Broadway. Blood Brothers previewed at the Music Box Theatre in New York on 14th April. The show opened on 25th April and closed after 839 performances on 30th April 1995. As Bill Kenwright later described it, Blood Brothers became "the miracle of Broadway - the only musical in American theatre history to beat the New York Times" (Phoenix Theatre, 10th November 2012). The cast of the New York production originally featured Stephanie Lawrence as Mrs. Johnstone and Warwick Evans as the Narrator. When Lawrence returned to the London production the role of Mrs. Johnstone was passed to Petula Clark, with David Cassidy and his brother Shaun playing the twins.
Lyn Paul joined the cast of Blood Brothers in 1997, after writing a letter to Bill Kenwright.
"I was very nervous about it because Bill Kenwright is such a big name in the theatre and I had never really done anything like that before but not only did he write back, he offered me a part." (South Wales Echo, 21st March 2007)
Lyn made her West End début with a three-week run at the Phoenix Theatre, followed by five months on the road with the UK touring production. At the end of the tour Lyn returned to the West End. On 28th July 1998 she led the cast as the show celebrated it's 10th anniversary and on 10th November 2012 she was centre stage once again in the show's final West End performance.
Following the closure of Blood Brothers, after 24 years in the West End, many of the websites that once featured pages about the show have now removed tthese.
The Associated Capital Theatres website [now no longer in existence] included information about the Phoenix Theatre and the West End production of Blood Brothers. It featured a photograph of Lyn Paul (Mrs. Johnstone) and Andy Snowden (Mickey).
In February 2001 the Ambassadors Theatre Group bought Associated Capital Theatres for £18 million. You can visit the ATG website at: www.theambassadors.com
The BBC Liverpool website reviewed Lyn Paul's performance in Blood Brothers at the Empire Theatre in April 2002.
Monday, 8th - Saturday, 20th April 2002
Review by: Greer McNally
"Among the talented ensemble there are several standout performances. Lyn Paul, as Mrs. Johnstone, delivers up her songs filled with the wrought emotion of a mother torn by a choice, she spends a lifetime regretting. Her role as the single parent raising a large family is a painful but familiar one and she plays it well."
Bill Kenwright produced the West End production of Blood Brothers which opened at the Albery Theatre on 28th July 1988 and which transferred to the Phoenix Theatre in 1991.
Lyn Paul on Bill Kenwright in 1997: "I am so grateful because ... I have auditioned for musicals before and nobody would give me a chance ... but Bill Kenwright, God love him, is the only person who's said 'Go on!' and he's taken a gamble ... So I'll be eternally grateful to him."
(Radio interview, 1997)
Lyn Paul was a cover star of Musical Stages, Issue 17. Lyn was also featured in an online review of Blood Brothers.
Phoenix Theatre, 28th July 1998
Review by Christopher George
"Lyn Paul, as Mrs. Johnstone, has joined after playing the role in the national tour, and she is perfect in the part. Her singing voice is just right, and all the emotion she put into the show seemed real. Her laugh when Mickey and Eddie went off to see Nymphomaniac Nights and Swedish Au-pairs could have been genuine, and if it wasn't, her tears during Tell Me It's Not True certainly were."
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
14th July - 2nd August 1997
Review by David Thomas
"But the revelation is Lyn Paul as the long suffering mother, Mrs. Johnstone, who keeps battling and is ever optimistic that she can make something of her life. Forget the fact that Lyn was once a pop singer and part of the New Seekers. Here she proves herself to be a great theatrical performer too. She is every bit as good as others who have played this part (and as they have included Barbara Dickson and Kiki Dee that is saying something). She sings and acts so well that I am surprised that she has not appeared more often in musicals."
Festival Theatre, Malvern
Reviewed by: Rebecca Vines
"As the mother who reluctantly gives up one of her sons so that he can enjoy a better life, Lyn Paul gives what can only be described as a towering performance. The power and innate sensitivity in her singing is simply mind-blowing and her rendition of Tell Me It's Not True should haunt the audience for years to come."
Blood Brothers at the Phoenix Theatre
Review by Steven Liddle
"Lyn Paul once sang with the New Seekers. 25 years on in Blood Brothers, she displays a vocal maturity and dramatic talent which make you wonder why she delayed her appearance in stage musicals until now. She puts heart and soul into the role of Mrs. Johnstone, creating a character who is (almost literally) brim full of life - vivacious in her youth, tender and indulgent with her children (you really can believe a child would call round to chat to her), resilient in the face of adversity yet uncertain she is doing the right thing."
To locate the Blood Brothers review on the Whatsonstage.com website select Reviews - West End from the Menu on the left of the screen. You will be taken to a new page listing current West End shows, including Blood Brothers. Select Full Review.
Interviewed on Radio 1's My Top 12 in 1974, Lyn Paul described Petula Clark as: "my very biggest idol apart from Liza Minnelli." In a New Seekers souvenir brochure published in 1973 Lyn is quoted as saying: "I met Pet Clark on the 'Bobby Darin Show' in America. I've been a fan of hers since I was 11. She asked me to go along to a recording session. I've never heard anybody handle a song as she did. She took a perfectly ordinary straight song and turned it into her style."
Petula Clark first performed in Blood Brothers on Broadway in 1993, succeeding Stephanie Lawrence when she returned to continue the role in London. After nine months on Broadway Petula Clark then toured with Blood Brothers through 26 American cities. Interviewed in The Times in 1995, she told Alan Jackson: "When I joined Blood Brothers it was after just 12 days. I was skimming the surface and praying during my first few performances." (The Times, 2nd September 1995). Petula Clark is featured on the International Cast Recording of Blood Brothers along with the Cassidy brothers, David and Shaun.
Kiki Dee played Mrs. Johnstone in Bill Kenwright's revival of Blood Brothers at the Albery Theatre on 28th July 1988. She handed the role on to Angela Richards, who in turn passed it on to Stephanie Lawrence.
The original Mrs. Johnstone. Having first played the role at the Liverpool Playhouse, Barbara Dickson made her West End début at the Lyric Theatre, London, on 11th April 1983. Her performance won her a SWET Award for 'Best Actress in a Musical'.
Writing about Blood Brothers in her autobiography, Barbrar Dickson recalled her fear of failure: "no matter how talented the other actors in the cast were, its success was going to hinge on my ability to bring the character of Mrs. Johnstone to life. Afterwards I realised I need not have worried on that score, at least: 'Blood Brothers' is so brilliantly written that the show is virtually indestructible." (A Shirt Box Full Of Songs, page 174)
Barbara Dickson returned to the role of Mrs. Johnstone for fourteen weeks in the Summer of 1993 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first production; she returned twice more, in 2001 and 2004, for performances in Liverpool.
Stephanie Lawrence (16th December 1949 - 4th November 2000) first played the part of Mrs. Johnstone in the West End production of Blood Brothers. In 1993 she went to New York with the show for its Broadway launch. Having received a Tony nomination for her Broadway performances, she returned to the West End production and is featured on the 1995 London Cast Recording,
Stephanie Lawrence briefly returned to the role of Mrs. Johnstone in December 1999 after Lyn Paul left the show. She died unexpectedly on 4th November 2000. On the same day the house lights at the Phoenix Theatre were dimmed as a mark of respect.
In an obituary which appeared in the Independent newspaper, Tom Vallance wrote: "Glamorous and talented, Stephanie Lawrence starred in some of the most successful musicals of the last 20 years but, in a career dogged by an exceptional amount of bad luck or bad timing, never achieved the general recognition or stardom she deserved." (Independent, Wednesday Review, 8th November 2000, page 6)
Helen Reddy has appeared in Blood Brothers on Broadway and in the West End of London, where in 1995 she took over the role of Mrs. Johnstone from Carole King. She has also performed in four productions of Willy Russell's one-woman play Shirley Valentine.
Like Lyn Paul, Clodagh Rodgers once represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest (she came 4th in 1971 with Jack In The Box). Like Lyn, she has also appeared in Blood Brothers on the UK tour and in the West End.
Among the many male stars who have appeared in Blood Brothers are '60s star Carl Wayne and the teen heartthrobs of the '70s David Cassidy and David Soul. In 2006 Antony Costa from the boyband Blue became the show's latest "big name" recruit.
During 1993-94, for nine-and-a-half months, David Cassidy and his half-brother Shaun Cassidy played the Johnstone twins in the Broadway production of Blood Brothers. David Cassidy was cast as Mickey. "I'd been waiting to get a part this good for a long time" he told the Los Angeles Times. "You know when you're inherently right for a character" (Los Angeles Times, 3rd September 1993). David suggested Shaun for the role of Eddie. Shaun accepted: "I saw the dynamics of what David and I, two real brothers with a relationship and history of our own, would carry across to the audience" (Los Angeles Times, 3rd September 1993).
David Cassidy also performed in the US touring production of the show (1994). He is featured on Blood Brothers: The International Recording. Interviewed by Michael J. Baker, David described Blood Brothers as "the most significant piece of work I think I've ever done."
Antony Costa joined the West End production of Blood Brothers on 10th April 2006. Costa, who had who started out as an actor, burst onto the UK music scene in May 2001 as a member of the boyband Blue. Following the success of their début single All Rise,Blue had number 1 hits in the UK with Too Close and If You Come Back. The band went on to achieve singles sales of over 4 million and album sales of over 7 million, including collaborations with Sir Elton John and Stevie Wonder.
Russell Crowe played the role of Mickie in the Australian production of Blood Brothers at the Seymour Centre in Sydney in 1988-89. He was fired from the show after headbutting and breaking the nose of his co-star Peter Cousens. Since then Crowe has become a big box office draw with films such as LA Confidential (1997), Gladiator (2000) and A Beautiful Mind (2001).
Con O'Neill won the 1988 Laurence Olivier Award for 'Best Actor in a Musical' for his portrayal of Mickey in the West End production of Blood Brothers. He was nominated for a Tony award for the same role in the Broadway transfer.
In 2011 Wet Wet Wet's lead singer Marti Pellow joined the UK touring production of Blood Brothers, playing the role of the Narrator. He went on to play the role in the West End (1st November 2011 – 28th April 2012) before returing to the touring production.
David Soul played the part of the Narrator in the Australian production of Blood Brothers and in 1995 joined the West End cast in London. The critics were less than kind. In a review titled Tell Me It's Not True, David Benedict wrote in the Independent: "David Soul should be booked for his part in Blood Brothers ... Throwing the focus away from the central trio does the show no favours. The rhyming couplets of the doom-laden plot narration are the least interesting component of the piece and anyone in their right mind would do everything to shift the audience's attention away from its portentousness ... All together: Don't Give Up on the Day Job ..." (Independent, 1st February 1995, Arts, page 5)