Few musicals have captured the hearts and minds of audiences quite like the multi-award winning Blood Brothers.
Affectionately christened ‘the standing ovation musical’, what began life as a secondary school play has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon and remains, to this day, one of only three musicals to surpass the milestone of 10,000 performances in London’s West End.
Written by Liverpool playwright and musician Willy Russell, Blood Brothers tells the captivating and moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret. The memorable score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.
Here is a list of wondrous facts about Blood Brothers productions across the years to satisfy even the most steadfast of super fans:
The current production of Blood Brothers, starring Lyn Paul, is the tenth version of the show to take place at Birmingham Hippodrome over its 30-year history.
The first production of Blood Brothers to be performed at Birmingham Hippodrome was unintended, having been brought in at short notice to fill a gap in programming left by the cancellation of a new musical revival of Billy starring Jason Donovan, Roy Barraclough and Kathy Staff. The Birmingham Hippodrome production which was also the first in the UK to be performed outside the West End, opening triumphantly on August 7, 1995, and starring Helen Reddy as Mrs Johnstone.
Lyn Paul first took on the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone in 2007, having first shot to fame as a member of the New Seekers in the late 70s.
Blood Brothers has a proud history of attracting some of the best-loved names in contemporary pop culture. Alongside Lyn Paul, other famous pop-stars-turned-Mrs Johnstones include Petula Clark, Kiki Dee, Carole King, Helen Reddy, all four of The Nolan Sisters and – most recently – former Spice Girl Melanie C – who also holds the accolade of being the first, genuine Scouser to take on the role of Mrs Johnstone. Famous Mickeys from across the years include David Cassidy, Antony Costa and a young Russell Crowe in the 1988 Australian production, while famous narrators include Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow and Starsky & Hutch's David Soul.
Former Mrs Johnstones at the Hippodrome include Tony award-winning actress Stephanie Lawrence, Berni and Linda Nolan who visited Birmingham in the 1998 and 2004 touring productions respectively, and actress and X Factor singing sensation Nikki Evans, who appeared as Mrs Johnstone three times between 2008 and 2012. The 2016 production will mark Lyn’s second visit to Birmingham in the role of Mrs Johnstone after her first appearance in 2006.
Blood Brothers was originally written as a school play in 1982. “Kids don’t sit there politely having paid £40 for posh seats, putting up with rubbish,” said writer Willy Russell. “They’ll just tell you straight. I knew it was my job to hook the most disinterested, antipathetic little b*****s sitting at the back, the ones like me all those years ago. Five actors would have to walk into the middle of that space and, without any lights or scenery and a minimum of props, just go, ‘bang’, and grab them.”
Blood Brothers famously ran for 24 years in London, making it the fifth longest-running show ever to appear on the West End behind The Mousetrap, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and The Woman in Black.
Sean Jones, who will reprise his role as Mickey Johnstone in the 2016 touring production, has played the role for a 12 years.
According to Russell, the idea of Blood Brothers first came to him after watching Jimi Hendrix performing the song Hey Joe. “Just think about the lyrics,” he said in a recent interview. “‘Hey Joe where you goin’ with that gun in your hand? I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady, I caught her messin’ round with another man’. It’s not only the lyrics, it’s the fantastic kind of urban violence that’s in that song. It’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.”
Blood Brothers has visited countless countries, including Australia, Japan, Siberia, Mexico and Canada. Russell said: “The most bizarre was the Siberian production directed by Glen Walford. She got out there to find an oligarch who was completely besotted with the show, but saw it as a Christian parable. He had hired a 250-piece choir, and she somehow had to incorporate this into the production.”
Blood Brothers will visit Birmingham Hippodrome from Monday until Saturday, October 22. For tickets, call 0844 338 5000 or visit birminghamhippodrome.com