Why Singing Stars Can''t Say No to Mrs Johnstone; the List of Actresses Who Have Played Mrs Johnstone in the Musical Blood Brothers Reads like a 'Who's Who' of Popular Music. but Why Are So Many Singers Willing to Trade a Place at the Top of the Charts for a Life on 'The Never-Never'? Steve Burbridge Finds Out

The Journal (Newcastle, England), September 12, 2009 | Go to article overview

Why Singing Stars Can''t Say No to Mrs Johnstone; the List of Actresses Who Have Played Mrs Johnstone in the Musical Blood Brothers Reads like a 'Who's Who' of Popular Music. but Why Are So Many Singers Willing to Trade a Place at the Top of the Charts for a Life on 'The Never-Never'? Steve Burbridge Finds Out


AT the beginning of the play, she's the twenty-something Liverpudlian single mother 'with seven hungry mouths to feed and one more nearly due,' but, by the final curtain, she's a down-trodden, distraught grandmother who is struggling to comprehend the most tragic of situations.

The pivotal character of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell's musical, Blood Brothers, is anything but a glamorous part, so what is it about the role that attracts pop princesses and singing superstars by the dozen? Well, the answer is, initially it didn't.

When Willy Russell approached folk singer Barbara Dickson to play Mrs Johnstone, in 1982, she repeatedly turned him down.

"I was so riddled with self doubt about whether I could actually do it, never having acted in my life," she said. "It worried me that I would not be up to doing it."

After much persuasion and reassurance, she finally accepted his offer and the show opened at Liverpool Playhouse for a threemonth run in January 1983. It was an instant success and transferred to London's West End where it won an Olivier Award for Best New Musical and Barbara Dickson was named Best Actress in a Musical by The Society of West End Theatres.

Speaking of the role she was so instrumental in creating, Barbara said: "Mrs Johnstone is a role which is very dear to my heart and a hard act to follow. I couldn't accept a role which was less than that and such parts are thin on the ground."

The impact of the character upon Barbara Dickson was so profound that she has since reprised the role three times - once in the West End, to coincide with its tenth anniversary celebrations, and twice in Liverpool.

After two extensive national tours, Blood Brothers returned to the West End in July 1988, starring Kiki Dee. Best remembered for Don't Go Breaking My Heart, her 1976 hit duet with Elton John, Blood Brothers proved to be a significant event in her career.

"It's such a strong piece," she said.

"You just have to graft and hope you're doing a good performance."

The musical moved into the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road in 1991 and it's still there.

Having enjoyed such critical and commercial success in the West End, it was only a matter of time before the show transferred to Broadway, where it ran for two years.

The late Stephanie Lawrence, who had starred in the West End productions of Evita, Marilyn!, Starlight Express and Blood Brothers was rewarded with a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical and won the Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut by an Actress for her portrayal of Mrs Johnstone, before returning to continue the role in London.

In an interview in 1995, five years before her untimely death, she said: "I find the role emotionally exhausting. Mrs Johnstone is a character who has had so many knocks that there is not much left you can sling at her. She's a fighter and a winner."

Producer Bill Kenwright persuaded singing sensation Petula Clark to take over the role on Broadway, despite the fact that she experienced the same initial misgivings as Barbara Dickson had.

Once settled in the role, and after garnering great acclaim from the New York critics, Petula admitted that she'd made the right decision.

"The music fits me like a glove, it's my kind of music. That was the big selling-point, really, for me."

Clark led the production on a hugely successful American tour and was succeeded on Broadway by Carole King, the Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter. Having been invited to watch the show with the proposition of performing the role of Mrs Johnstone, Carole was also unsure about taking on the part. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Why Singing Stars Can''t Say No to Mrs Johnstone; the List of Actresses Who Have Played Mrs Johnstone in the Musical Blood Brothers Reads like a 'Who's Who' of Popular Music. but Why Are So Many Singers Willing to Trade a Place at the Top of the Charts for a Life on 'The Never-Never'? Steve Burbridge Finds Out
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.