THEY say you should never go back but when Niki Evans got a phone call asking her to star in Blood Brothers 10 years after first appearing as Mrs Johnstone she didn’t have to think twice.

“I was driving back to panto when I got the call,” said Niki, “and they said they’d really love me to go back. My heart said ‘yes’ straight away. I wanted to see how differently I felt about this role; now that I’m 10 years older I wanted to see how I thought about this woman.”

Niki Evans in Blood Brothers

Niki Evans in Blood Brothers

Written by Willy Russell, Blood Brothers is a modern classic. At its heart is the character of Mrs Johnstone whose twin boys are separated at birth and who grow up on the opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with tragic consequences.

“I was in my thirties when I first did the role,” said Niki. “Now I am nearer her age and I’ve had a further 10 years’ life experience behind me. Plus I have two boys of my own - they’re 25 and 27 now - and I’ve seen the things that can happen as they get older

“It’s really weird how differently I feel about Mrs J. I’ve always loved her but now I think I understand her more.”

Niki was a total unknown in the theatre world when legendary producer Bill Kenwright invited her to audition for Mrs Johnstone after seeing her perform on the X Factor - she finished fourth in the TV talent search in 2007.

“I’d never been to the theatre at that point.” Niki remembers. “I really had no idea why Bill Kenwright had called me in. He asked me what my favourite musical was and he was floored when I told him I’d never seen one.

INCREDIBLE: Blood Brothers (Picture: Robert Day)

INCREDIBLE: Blood Brothers (Picture: Robert Day)

“I hadn’t a clue what Blood Brothers was about. I’m from a rock background and when they said Blood Brothers I thought it must be about Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi and that was something I’d really be up for.

“Bill just talked to me and I told him my background and that we were poor and that if you had a pound in your pocket that would go on a loaf of bread. I think that was the side of me he liked and I can see now how that reflects Mrs J.

“He asked if I could do a Scouse accent which I did and he offered me the job. I thought he was bonkers. He’s an incredible force and he just saw something in me which I will be forever grateful for.”

Niki’s performance in the show quickly won over the doubters and had the critics raving.

“I’ve seen people that have come out of shows like X Factor in shows and they stick out like a sore thumb. I didn’t want to be one of those.

“I said to the rest of the cast ‘if I’m crap please tell me and I won’t do it. I don’t want to let you down’."

Niki left Blood Brothers for a role in the stage version of Legally Blonde and subsequently has appeared in Kinky Boots. But she’s delighted to be back in Blood Brothers.

“Mrs J is such a massive role and I didn’t appreciate that the first time round,” she said. “Now I fully appreciate what Bill has given me.”

Blood Brothers is a very emotional show and the impact it has on Niki hasn’t diminished.

EMOTIONAL: Niki Evans is Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers

EMOTIONAL: Niki Evans is Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers

“The first time I went to watch it with Lyn Paul as Mrs J I got into the taxi afterwards and the driver asked me if I’d had a row with my boyfriend as I was just sobbing in the back seat. I just said ‘no. I’ve just seen Blood Brothers’.

“It still gets to me now, every night. When we’re coming to the end of the show I have to just get myself into the zone to get through it and usually by the third curtain call I’ve stopped crying!”

As well as understanding her character more, Niki has brought a different vocal approach to Mrs Johnstone this time round.

“That’s Bill’s doing,” she said. “I’m known as a powerhouse. If you want a singer with a big voice people pick up and phone and call me.

“But as we were rehearsing this time Bill said he wanted me to use my voice in a different way. He managed to get something out of me that I didn’t know was there.

Niki Evans

Niki Evans

“He’s just say, ‘no sing softer, sing softer’. I’m only allowed one full-on Shirley Bassey moment in the whole show but I can see why.

“He told me ‘I don’t think you know what your voice can do when you don’t hit full power’. I suppose it’s a case of less is more and it allows me to build the emotion even more.”

Niki joins an illustrious list of performers who have played Mrs J including Lyn Paul, Barbara Dickson and Marti Webb.

“Lyn was the first Mrs J I saw and she’ll always be the one for me,” said Niki. “She sent me flowers and came to watch my opening night.

“They do say it’s a show you never leave,” said Niki. “It really is a family and everyone supports each other.

“This current cast is just incredible and being on stage with them just gives me goosebumps. I can’t tell you how good they are.”

Blood Brothers, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, February 15 to Saturday, February 26. Details from