West End star and pop singer Lyn Paul is returning to the role of Mrs Johnstone for the last time in the new tour of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers.
The long-running musical heads to Hastings’ White Rock Theatre from Tuesday to Saturday, November 12-16, presented by Bill Kenwright.
Tickets cost £24.50-£26.50 with discounts for White Rock Friends. Call 01424 462288 or visit whiterocktheatre.org.uk.
Speaking about the current version of the show Lyn says that playing Mrs Johnstone once again is like greeting an old friend.
You played Mrs Johnstone from 1997 until 2000, then revived it in 2008 and again in 2012. Is it fair to say that this is your ultimate role?
Without a shadow of a doubt! Mrs J is just me. Everything that she’s going through I feel, the way Willy’s (Russell) written it is so easy to get over to an audience as it’s actually written as you would speak. Sometimes, when people write a script, you look at it and think, “well, that’s not how I would say it”. But this is so perfectly written and so easy, it just flows, and I just feel that Mrs J is me, so it makes it very easy to play. When I first played Mrs J, I was doing cabaret and he took me away from all that. I wrote to Bill and asked him if he would consider me for the role of Mrs J. He sent me a letter back by return post, and less than three weeks later I was waiting on the stage at the Phoenix Theatre (West End) to start rehearsals and I cannot tell you what it did to me. I’d never acted and I thought: “Oh my god, I can’t do this.” But Bill showed so much faith in me that I will always go back. He’s only got to click his fingers and I’ll be straight in, no problem.
And this will be your final time as Mrs Johnstone?
I am beyond thrilled to be returning to this iconic role. I’m honoured to have been given the opportunity to undertake this Farewell Tour. It’s such a privilege to be able to play Mrs Johnstone one final time.
A lot of people will also know you as a member of the New Seekers and singing that world-famous song ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’. But did you record it for Coca Cola or after the ad came out?
We recorded the advert first for Coca Cola and then everybody said: “Wow, that’s a fantastic song.” Although the five of us just looked at each other and said “what?” But everybody turned out to be right and we went into the studio and recorded the single and the rest is history. And it crops up all the time. It was in the last ever episode of Mad Men too.
Blood Brothers is a very moving show. Have you come across any fans that have told you how much it has touched their lives and stayed with them?
I got a letter once from a woman who had a son who was in jail, and she said she sat watching it and it was the only time she’d ever seen anybody portray on stage a jail sequence that is exactly as it is. And she said she cried and cried. So if that’s one example, can you imagine how other people must relate to other parts of it? Everyone’s gone through highs and lows and a lot of what Mrs J’s gone through. And Mrs Lyons. And Mickey and Eddie.
Having known this show for so many years, have you any advice for those who are starring in it for the very first time?
The only thing I would say is that touring with Blood Brothers is like one big family. In all the years I’ve been doing it, it always has been. Everyone does everything together and so I would tell them to embrace it, enjoy it and let’s get the camaraderie going that we’ve always had.
So you can boast a pop career, a musical theatre career and you’ve done television too. What have been your highlights so far?
Obviously there are so many, I’ve had a very charmed career. And although I’ve had lots of bad times, I’ve had some incredible highs too. But Blood Brothers has to be the highlight. Not necessarily because of the show, but because of what it led to. Bill took me on just on faith because once I went into Blood Brothers with Bill, he introduced me to my agent, who then put me into Emmerdale. But Mrs J in Blood Brothers is such an iconic role to play, so although it might sound as though I’m crawling here (laughs) it’s changed my life. It gave me a new career. I was going up and down the country doing cabaret and Bill took me away from all that and I’ve never gone back.
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