Rebecca Storm will return to the Millennium Forum in a role she knows well, as Mrs Johnstone from the iconic musical Blood Brothers.
Having made her debut 36 years ago in Willy Russell’s much loved play, Rebecca went on to become one of the most popular leading ladies in musical theatre and is relishing returning to the role once more.
Blood Brothers tells the moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret. An emotional story which has captured audiences hearts since launching at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983, Blood Brothers is currently taking in the sights of Dublin’s Bord Gáis Theatre and Rebecca told us how it has been received.
“It has been going brilliantly” began Rebecca. “They have sold 35,000 tickets so far, and it’s still selling. I’ve been doing Blood Brothers now for 36 years and this has been the most successful it’s been during the time I’ve been involved. I’m thrilled to be part of it.
“I tend to slot into the Irish section of Blood Brothers these days, so I started last Tuesday with the Bord Gáis and I will also be in Derry, but then the tour will carry on to the UK and that’s when Lynn [Paul] will be back.”
Throughout her career, Rebecca has embraced some of the most demanding and iconic roles in musical theatre and she told us how she first encountered the character she affectionately calls Mrs J.
“36 years ago I turned up to do an audition and I didnt even know what it was for” revealed Rebecca. “I just saw an ad which said that they were looking for someone between the ages of 24 and 40. Blood Brothers wasn’t really heard of in those days, it was still really new.
“I was just really lucky that I decided to go to this audition but had I known what it was for, I wouldn’t have gone as it was for a mother with seven children and I was only 24 at the time. So it was good that I didn’t actually know what I was auditioning for.
“Up until that stage I was performing musical cabaret. I would have been supporting people like Bob Monkhouse and Tommy Cooper in the theatres, but I had never actually been involved in a musical before as they were only really just starting to become trendy. I had loved Evita and also the soundtrack, and it was an area that I thought that I might have a possibility of getting into, but hand on heart I had absolutely no idea of how many doors that it would actually open for me” admitted Rebecca.
Rebecca revealed where Mrs Johnstone ranks amongst the other iconic roles she has performed through the years; “It’s got to be up at the top without a shadow of a doubt.
“I think that because it was the first one I had done, Willy Russell was so supportive and even though they probably looked at me and thought that I was a bit inexperienced, the response was incredible. The director was incredible, spending extra time with me, guiding me in ways in which to do things. I had a very fast course of acting lessons with a brilliant director and a brilliant writer. So the part is so intrinsic in my life. I have performed 14 different versions now over a period of 36 years.
“Career wise I don’t know what would have happened had I not gone to that audition that day. I moved on to shows like Evita and Les Misérables and it opened the doors for me to go and do a lot of other different musicals” said Rebecca.
Blood Brothers is well-known for its emotional scenes and is often quite draining for the actors involved. Something Rebecca knows all too well and admits that it can be emotionally very demanding. “It is a bit tiring, with the crying and the build up to the emotions at the end” acknowledged Rebecca.
“I think these days it probably would be a bit much to take on a long tour. I just finished a 60 week tour of Calendar Girls and as much as I absolutely love Blood Brothers, to do 60 weeks of Mrs Johnstone would take its toll on your emotions alright. She goes through quite a bit. There’s an awful lot which goes on in Mrs Johnstone's life during the 3 hour play.”
And the reason for Blood Brothers longevity and popularity some 37 years after debuting? “Personally I think that every member of the audience can relate to it” said Rebecca. “It’s highly possible that they can look up on that stage and identify with somebody there. Not necessarily the story of a mother giving her child away in secret, but maybe the Mr Lyons character, the straightforward husband who is maybe a bit over anxious.
“It is one of the best musicals to take young kids to go and see because they are going to laugh out loud. It’s a great piece of theatre to introduce young people to. It’s a terrifically powerful story with an awful lot of truth behind it and also great songs. It’s no wonder that it has been a huge success for 37 years now” concluded Rebecca.
Blood Brothers performs at the Millennium Forum from Tues 3rd to Sat 7th March. Tickets are now available from the Box Office. Telephone 71 264455 or visit millenniumforum.co.uk for bookings.