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What's on: Blood Brothers, Manchester, June 19 - 30
BEST-known for the 1980s party hit I’m In The Mood For Dancing, The Nolans are creating a new musical legacy in the 21st Century, with Maureen the latest sibling to star in the musical Blood Brothers.
Blackpool-based singer and actress Maureen was the fourth Nolan to play Mrs Johnstone, following her sisters Bernie, Linda and Denise into the part on the West End in 2005 for a two-year stint and returning to the role on various tours since then.
The Willy Russell-penned musical follows Mrs Johnstone’s anguish as a mother after she gives away one of her newborn twin sons when she cannot afford to bring them both up.
When the two of them meet as boys, they forge a firm friendship while their lives continue along different paths before colliding in the ultimately tragic ending.
The sorrowful tale has plenty of Scouse humour, and it’s this blend which Maureen says is key to the musical’s longevity — it opened in the West End in 1983, and it’s revival five years later is still running, alongside regular national tours.
“Even as a Blood Brothers stalker like me, it is amazing how popular the show is,” she said.
“It strikes a chord no matter what age you are; the writing is immense, Bill Kenwright’s production is brilliant and then the haunting music runs all the way through it.
“The story pulls so many emotions out of people, by the time you leave those boys you’ve laughed with them, cried with them and feel for them, making the tragedy even greater when it comes.
“People do come back again and again and again and you almost have to see it again as it resonates in different ways at different times.”
Maureen, who turned 58 yesterday, was already a fan of Blood Brothers when she auditioned for the role, having watched her sisters each make it their own in turn.
And the character held a special place in her heart, reminding her of her own mother — who ‘lived for her children’ — and the family’s upbringing on a Dublin council estate before they moved to Blackpool in 1962.
“I knew the role quite well by the time it was my turn — I’d seen it 18 times,” she said.
“It is my all-time favourite show, which makes it such a pleasure to be in, so even without my sisters’ having played the role there would always have been pressure for me, when you think of all the other women who’ve played her so fantastically. And she’s a brilliant role for women of our age.
“Of course, I’ve watched my sisters and if I see ideas from their performance that I like I can nick them. Why fix it if it’s not broken? But I do have my own thoughts too.
“And I have told them about the bits I like, although they wouldn’t tell me if what I was doing was rubbish.”
Next week she’ll be back in the North West for a two-week-run at the Opera House in Manchester, where sh hopes to catch up with sister Colleen.
“I am looking forward to Manchester,” she said.
“Colleen lives there now and I only live in Blackpool, so can commute.
“I was thrilled when we got the tour dates and saw we were there for two weeks — then when we checked it, it’s her two weeks holiday; she’s away from Wednesday so I’ll only see her the first couple of days. You couldn’t arrange it to miss each other like that if you tried.”
Blood Brothers, Opera House, Manchester, Tuesday, June 19 to Saturday, June 30. Call 0844 871 7660 to book.
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