The multi-award winning Blood Brothers is back at the Lyceum next week as part of its 30th Anniversary Tour, proving Willy Russell’s musical twins separated at birth who grow up on opposite sides of the tracks remains as popular as ever.
Lyn Paul returns to the role of Mrs Johnstone that she first played in 1997. Sean Jones has almost as long an association with the show - 17 years - and has played the part of one of the twins, Mickey, for 15.
He sees a lot of the character in himself. “It’s basically me but with drug addiction and jail terms thrown in,” he laughs. “It’s very similar to myself, actually. I was expelled from school.
“When I first saw the show, it was because someone had said to me, you should go and see it because there’s a part that you’d be right for. And when you’re a young actor you want to know what to market yourself on. So I went to see it, and it’s set in Liverpool which is just down the road (from north Wales where he grew up) and I thought, ‘I get this’.”
The downside was he had no musical theatre training but that didn’t stop him going along to audition to be understudy to Mickey and to his surprise getting it.
“ I understudied for two years and there was a tour going out on the road. I begged to get another chance to audition for Bill (Kenwright, producer and co-director),” he recalls. “Eventually I did and I got it! And in this job, it’s very rare that you get to play a part that you want to play.
“So it’s the story of twin boys separated at birth and one stays with his working class mother while the other one is given away to a rich family, and that’s the story in a nutshell. The characters are growing up in 1960s and 1970s Liverpool and all that pertained to politics and class divide.
“I suppose it’s an examination of nature versus nurture and how nothing goes right for Mickey. He gets expelled from school, he goes on the dole because of the unemployment situation at the time, while his twin brother who was given away has a great education and goes to university, but fate keeps pulling them together and they become really good friends. But as they get older, the differences between them become more stark.”
He starts out playing Mickey as a seven-year-old boy and the fact that works he puts down to Willy Russell’s writing and Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson’s direction.
“They won’t just let you put on a silly, childlike voice and walk like a kid. What they want is to find the essence of being that age, because the whole thing about the audience is to have them suspend their disbelief because it’s storytelling, it’s make-believe. So in as much as a kid can put on show for you and pretend to be adults, it’s the same with Blood Brothers. I run on stage in a baggy jumper and I sit on the edge of the stage and tell the audience I’m seven-years-old and they’ll accept it. “
There’s another way in which Blood Brothers is family to Sean. “The missus (Tracey Spencer who played Mrs Lyons) used to be in the show and later came on tour before and after Elinor (their little girl) was born. And now Elinor’s in school, they’ll visit at half-term and maybe the odd weekend if we’re close to home.”
Blood Brothers runs at the Lyceum Theatre for two weeks starting on Monday.