Stage roles like this are in my blood, says Lyn Paul ahead of her appearance in Blood Brothers at Wolverhampton Grand
Returning to Blood Brothers is like greeting an old friend for actress Lyn Paul, who found fame with the New Seekers in the early 1970s before finding more recent success and critical acclaim in the long-running West End musical, Blood Brothers.
For 20 years, she has played the part of Mrs Johnstone at the Phoenix Theatre and on a UK tour. There are times when you’d expect her to know it in her sleep.
“You know what, strangely enough, I was lying in bed the other night going through the opening song and I reached one part, but for the life of me couldn’t remember the rest of it, and I had to get up and go downstairs to get the script and go through it! At 4 o’clock in the morning, ridiculous! So it’s playing on my mind obviously (laughs)!”
The show will feature at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre from Monday until April 21, after suprassing 10,000 performances in London’s West End.
Fans can look forward to a glitzy production of a musical that has been christened the ‘Standing Ovation Musical’, with a score including Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotive hit Tell Me It’s Not True.
We caught up with Lyn to find out what she loves about the new touring production:
“I will treat it like a new show. Obviously it’s easier because I do know what I’m doing and because it is so well directed. When I first started it was directed by Bill and also Bob Tomson, so all those notes I have I’ve still got written down and a lot of that will come back to me because I think the way they directed it is just second to none. I’m desperately looking forward to going back and bringing that with me.”
You played the role of Mrs Johnstone from 1997 right up until 2000, then revived it in 2008 and then again in 2012 for the final two weeks of its West End run – fair to say it’s your ultimate role?
“Oh absolutely, 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.”
No doubt a huge factor when accepting the role again for the tour?
“Absolutely. And also, because of Bill (Kenwright). 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.”
So it was a chance letter that changed your life?
“Oh yes, absolutely. I didn’t know Bill although I knew Carl Wayne, who was the Narrator at that point, and he came to see me in a cabaret show I was in down the road from the Phoenix Theatre and he told me ‘you know, you should go and audition for Mrs Johnstone’. I didn’t even know Blood Brothers, so I asked him about it and said, ‘I can’t, I don’t act’ But he said I should give it a go. So I went back and discussed it with my mum and she said, ‘Oh Bill Kenwright, he’s a very nice man’. I said, ‘how do you know, you’ve never met him’, and she said, ‘well I’ve seen him interviewed and he’s a very nice man, write to him!’ Typical Northern mum! So I did, I wrote and just said ‘would you consider seeing me for the role of Mrs J, I’m not Liverpudlian but I can get into the accent’, gave him all that, and I posted it off. Two days later I got a return letter saying, ‘don’t worry about the Liverpudlian accent love, we’ll sort that, you don’t need one, you’re a Northerner, and I’d love to see you’. And that was it. And from that moment on we became good friends.”
While Blood Brothers is what you’re synonymous with, you also toured with Cabaret for Bill – how did you get involved with that?
“I got an email from him which said he’d like to put you up for Fräulein Schneider, how would you feel about it? I wrote back and said I would love it, he sent me the script and the parts he wanted me to do, asked me to come into the office, I went in and went through the songs, went up to Bill’s office, we went through the scenes and that was that. Bill has been a very good friend to me and a very good boss, he’s been very loyal to me and I will always be there.”
You starred in Cabaret with Will Young, who started out as a pop star like you did – how hard or easy was it to develop acting skills, particularly with no experience?
“Well, you’re not being yourself, it’s totally different to standing on stage and being yourself and having to make a speech at the end of a gig, I’m useless at that. But when you go on stage and you’re playing a character, it just seems to happen for me. Especially Mrs. J because I can relate to her so well being a Northern mum and having gone through a lot of struggles in my life, lots of lows. I can relate to her to a great extent, so I feel that it just comes, it just happens.”
Tickets are available from the venue.