Denise starred in Blood Brothers for more than four consecutive years. She originally was offered the starring role in London's West End. Her Sister Bernie had toured in the production and appeared briefly in the West End. During that National Tour of the show she starred at the Liverpool Empire. Producers of the Soap Opera Brookside saw the show and were impressed with Bernie. They quickly snapped her up for the TV soap. Bill Kenwright, the show's producers allowed Bernie to get out of her contract early without penalty. She had suggested her Sisters as replacements and Linda was offered the touring role Denise quickly filled the gap in the West End. In Denise's case a CD was dispatched to Kenwright and she was invited to sing for the producers. With just nine days rehearsal Denise opened in the show. She was quoted at the time "I was so petrified before I went on I almost missed my cue. Because I was in the loo. But once I started singing all the ines fell into place." Denise played the lead role at London's Phoenix Theatre for eight months before transferring to the touring production. This suited her as it meant she was able to visit more towns up and down the UK and she enjoyed the audiences better. She said of the tour "The West End is very prestigious, of course, and it carries great kudos. But much of the audience is made up of foreign visitors who have little understanding of a play set in the Eighties in Liverpool. The audiences on the tour were totally different. They got it! Partucularly in the North. At the end of every show they jumped to their feet. You could see their reactions straight away. As an artist if was totally gratifying. I loved my time in the show. It was very demanding on me vocally, but the cast and crew were amazing. I have never met people so dedicated and professional. When my time came to leave the show, naturally I was sad, but I knew it was the right time to go. I have never looked back on anything, but I do have the fondest memories of my time with the show. I am also thrilled with the fact that I did play in the West End and made it to the Guinness Book Of World Records. Our record was 'Most Siblings (four) who have appeared in the same professional production.' That is something I treasure. I still have the certificate framed in my hallway"
Denise first appeared in the show in 1998.
The show is a musical with book, lyrics and music by Willy Russell. The story is a contemporary nature versus nurture plot, revolving around fraternal twins who were separated at birth. The twins' different backgrounds take them to opposite ends of the social spectrum, one becoming a councillor and the other unemployed and in prison. They both fall in love with the same girl, causing a tear in their friendship and leading to the tragic death of both brothers.
Originally developed as a school play, Blood Brothers debuted in Liverpool before Russell transferred it to West End for a short run in 1983. The musical won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical and went on to a year-long national tour before returning for a revival in the West End in 1988 where it stayed at the Albery Theatre for 3 years, transferring to the Phoenix Theatre in 1991. The revival ran for more than 24 years in the West End, and played more than 10,000 performances, becoming the third longest-running musical production in West End history. It finally closed in November 2012. The musical has been produced with success on tour, on Broadway and elsewhere, and it has developed a cult following.
Blood Brothers had a year-long national tour beginning in 1987, produced by Bill Kenwright (and directed by Kenwright and Bob Tomson), starring Kiki Dee as Mrs Johnstone, Warwick Evans as the Narrator, Con O'Neill as Mickey and Robert Locke as Eddie, leading to a revival at the Albery Theatre, directed by Tomson, with the same cast. O'Neill won an Olivier Award for his performance, and Dee was nominated. It opened on 28 July 1988 and moved out of that theatre on 16 November 1991. The musical transferred to the Phoenix Theatre on 21 November 1991, where it closed on 10 November 2012. Due to close on 27 October, its run was extended by 2 weeks with returning favourites in the closing cast, including Lyn Paul, original narrator Warwick Evans, Sean Jones as Micky, Michael Hutchinson as Eddie and Jan Graveson as Linda.
The central role of Mrs. Johnstone has been played in various productions by, among others, Kiki Dee, Angela Richards, Barbara Dickson, Stephanie Lawrence, Clodagh Rodgers, Lyn Paul, Siobhan McCarthy, four of the Nolan sisters (Linda, Bernie, Denise and Maureen), Melanie Chisholm (making her West End debut and receiving an Olivier nomination in 2009), Marti Webb, Niki Evans, Amy Robbins, Natasha Hamilton, Helen Reddy, Rebecca Storm, Carole King, Petula Clark and the late Stephanie Lawrence. Mickey has been played by Con O'Neill, Stephen McGann, Paul Crosby, Antony Costa, Stefan Dennis and David Cassidy, among others. Notable actors to play Eddie include Hutchinson and Shaun Cassidy. Narrators include Evans, Carl Wayne, David Soul and Marti Pellow. Alex Harlan played the small role of the postman in more than 4,000 performances.
The musical has toured in the UK several times, the first beginning in August 1995, when it opened at the Birmingham Hippodrome with Helen Reddy as Mrs Johnstone. Other tours included ones in 2002-2006 with Denise Nolan, 2007 With Linda Nolan, 2008 and 2010, with Marti Webb (in 2008) and Niki Evans (in 2010/2011) as Mrs. Johnstone. The 2012 tour featured Maureen Nolan as Mrs Johnstone. Warwick Evans reprised the role of Narrator and Sean Jones played Mickey; Warwick and Jones were both invited back to play the last two weeks of the West End run at the Phoenix.
The first Australian production, in 1988, included Russell Crowe in the role of Mickey and Christina Amphlett as Mrs Johnstone.
A new production was presented at Hayes Theatre in Sydney in February 2015. Produced by Enda Markey with direction by Andrew Pole and musical direction by Michael Tyack, the production will star Helen Dallimore as Mrs Johnstone, Michael Cormick as the Narrator, Bobby Fox as Mickey and Blake Bowden as Edward.
The Broadway production opened on 25 April 1993 at the Music Box Theatre and closed on 30 April 1995 after 840 performances. It was co-directed by Tomson and Kenwright. Several of the British actors made their Broadway debuts, including Lawrence as Mrs. Johnstone, O'Neill as Mickey, Graveson as Linda, Hutchinson as Eddie and Evans as the narrator. Barbara Walsh was Mrs Lyons, and Kerry Butler made her Broadway debut in the ensemble. To boost box office sales during the run, Kenwright persuaded Petula Clark to make her Broadway debut, replacing Lawrence as Mrs. Johnstone, with David and Shaun Cassidy as her sons. The casting of the Cassidy half-brothers as the twins generated much publicity. The musical received Tony Award nominations for best musical, best book and best direction, and Lawrence (best actress), O'Neill (best actor) and Graveson (best featured actress) were all nominated for their performances in the original Broadway cast Following Clark's portrayal, Mrs. Johnstone was played by other 1970s pop singers, with King and Reddy later playing the role on Broadway. Petula Clark and David Cassidy also starred in the US national tour from 1994–95. Clark and the Cassidys also recorded the international cast album, with Willy Russell as the Narrator. Many of the cast members were also in the Canadian run, which starred David Cassidy, Michael Burgess and Canadian singer-songwriter Amy Sky
SYNOPSIS - INCLUDES SPOILERS
Around the beginning of the 1960s, a single woman, who's first name nor maiden name is never revealed, meets and quickly falls for a man. Quickly she is married and finds that she is pregnant. Her first child, Darren Wayne is followed in quick succession by six other children. Donna Marie, Mickey, Eddie and Linda, are the only ones named in the productioon. Whilst her husband continues his life largely uninterrupted, hers is hindered by a life of drudgery, poverty and Motherhood. Money is tight and she is deeply in debt. She finds she cannot support her seven children when her husband walks out on her. She is faced with the humiliation of not even being able to afford the milk bill. Despite her protestations that she will be "Earning next week". The job, being that of a cleaner for a wealthy local couple, Mr and Mrs Lyons. She is enjoying the job and the money it brings but is shocked to find that her now departed husband had left her pregnant. She knows she can barely afford to raise the child, but tells Mrs Lyons that having children to her is not difficult and that she will be back at work almost immediately when the baby arrives
Mrs. Lyons is desperate for a baby but is unable to conceive, and would like to adopt a child but her husband does not agree. Mrs Johnstone finds out that she is going to have twins and explains to Mrs Lyons that she cannot afford to raise two more babies. Mrs Lyons then suggests that Mrs Johnstone give one of the babies to her. Mrs Johnstone apprehensively agrees to this and is made to swear on the Bible to keep to the deal. Mrs Johnstone has the twins (Mickey and Edward), but then regrets agreeing to give one away.
The Narrator reminds Mrs. Johnstone, when she is having second thoughts, that there was a deal and that she must stick to it. Deeply religious Mrs. Johnstone does agree to give the child away. The day she leaves the hospital with the twins Mrs Lyons spots her in the street and immediately lays claim to one of them. She simply cannot decide which one to give away and shouts at Mrs. Lyons not to tell her which one, but to take one while he back is turned away. In an emotional state she returns home with one pram.
She lies to her other children, saying that the other baby had died and gone to heaven. Mrs. Johnstone continues to work for Mrs Lyons, but Mrs Lyons soon feels that Mrs Johnstone is paying too much attention to the child that she has given up to her. She fires Mrs Johnstone, and offers her a financial pay off. Mrs Johnstone wants to take the baby with her, but Mrs. Lyons plays on Mrs Johnstone's superstitions by telling her that "if twins separated at birth learn that they were once one of a pair they will both immediately die". Mrs. Johnstone refuses to take the money that Mrs. Lyons offered her and leaves without the child and money. Almost eight years later, Mickey, the son Mrs. Johnstone kept, meets Edward, the other twin, and after learning they share the same birthday, the two boys make a pact to become Blood Brothers, with Mickey calling Edward: Eddie. Mrs. Johnstone finds them and sends Eddie away, telling him not to come round again or else the "Bogey-man" will get him. Later in the day Mickey goes to Eddie's house, and Mrs. Lyons throws him out. She and Eddie argue on the subject, and Eddie swears at her. Mrs. Lyons slaps him and immediately regrets her reaction. She realises that he has learned to swear from Mickey.
Mickey is playing with some neighbourhood children including his friend Linda. Afterwards, he takes her to see Eddie, and the three of them sneak off to play, but are caught by a policeman when about to throw stones through a window. Mrs. Lyons tries to find Eddie. She becomes worried about Eddie's friendship with Mickey, as she has started to believe the superstition that she herself had made up. She decides to move and persuades her husband who realises she is becoming mentally ill. When Eddie says goodbye, Mrs. Johnstone gives him a locket with a picture of herself and Mickey, as the boys separate. The scene shifts to the time around the end of the 1960s when the Johnstone family are also being rehoused from the condemned inner city slum area of Liverpool to a new council house in the nearby overspill town of Skelmersdale.
It is now the mid 1970s and Eddie, Mickey and Linda are 14 years old. The Johnstones' lives have improved since moving, and they have not seen Eddie in all this time. Mickey has a crush on Linda, who is obviously interested in him too, but Mickey does not know how to act with her. Both of them are suspended after mouthing off to their teacher. Eddie is suspended from his boarding school for refusing to give up Mrs. Johnstone's locket to a teacher, but he will not tell his Mother who it was from. Mrs. Lyons sees Mrs. Johnstone near her house and her worries are renewed. Eddie and Mickey bump into each other in a field, but do not recognize each other. They become friends again, each wanting to be like the other. They finally realize who the other is and meet up with Linda. Mrs. Lyons flies into a rage visiting her nemesis (Mrs. Johnstone) where she tries to kill Mrs. Johnstone, but she couldn't and Mrs Johnstone just showed her out of the door. Four years later, an 18-year-old Eddie has feelings for Linda, but will not say anything, as he knows Mickey likes her too. Eddie leaves for university, but not before encouraging Mickey to ask Linda out. During Eddie's absence, by the beginning of the 1980s, Mickey is made redundant from his factory job due to the recession, which forces him onto the dole. He soon discovers that Linda is pregnant, and they decide to get married.
Eddie returns at Christmas ready to party and have fun, but Mickey realizes that they are now very different; after a small fight with Eddie, they part. To get money, Mickey assists his brother Sammy in a robbery that goes wrong, and becomes an accessory to a murder committed by Sammy. He is sentenced to seven years in prison.
In prison, Mickey falls into a deep depression. When released early for good behaviour in the mid-1980s, he is still dependent on anti-depressants, and he turns away from Linda. Linda, unable to get Mickey off the anti-depressants, contacts Eddie, who is now a councillor, and he gets them their own house and gets Mickey a job. Linda worries about Mickey and meets up with Eddie. Mrs. Lyons sees them together and tells Mickey about it. Mickey, distraught over Eddie and Linda's affair, grabs the gun that Sammy hid before he got arrested and then storms down to the council offices to confront Eddie.
here, Eddie is giving a speech when Mickey storms in with the gun. Mickey asks why, even though Eddie has everything and Mickey has nothing, Eddie would take away the one good thing that Mickey had – Linda. Eddie denies this intention, and the police enter, demanding that Mickey put the gun down, Mickey lowers the gun. Mrs. Johnstone runs in and, in an attempt to stop Mickey from shooting Eddie, tells the two brothers the truth. Mickey despairs that he was not the one given away, because then he could have had the life given to Eddie. Mickey, distraught, gestures carelessly with the gun towards Eddie. The story ends when the police misinterpret this action and gun Mickey down as he accidentally shoots Eddie, killing them both. Mrs. Lyons's superstitious prediction has come true, and the Narrator questions whether class was more to blame than superstition
BLOOD BROTHERS GALLERY
Overture – Orchestra, Company and Narrator
"Marilyn Monroe" – Mrs. Johnstone and Company
"Marilyn Monroe" (Reprise) – Mrs. Johnstone
"My Child" – Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs Lyons
"Easy Terms" – Mrs. Johnstone
"Shoes Upon the Table" – Narrator
"Easy Terms" (Reprise) – Mrs. Johnstone
"Kids' Game" – Linda, Mickey and Ensemble
"Bright New Day" (Preview) – Mrs. Johnstone
"Long Sunday Afternoon" / "My Friend" – Mickey and Eddie