Willy Russell’s gritty musical about the fate of twins separated at birth bombed in the West End 30 years ago.
That was despite a cast led by Barbara Dickson who created the role of Mrs Johnstone, the mum who gave her baby away because she could not afford to feed him.
It has since clocked up multi-awards, is recorded as one of the longest running West End musicals in theatre history, had a Broadway run and toured all over the world. Russell had the last laugh and standing ovations.
Which just goes to show what London audiences know. Give them a swinging chandelier and they’re as happy as a cat on rollerskates.
Some of the biggest names in showbiz have appeared in it. Petula Clark, Spice Girl Mel C, the late Bernadette Nolan and her sisters Linda, Denise and Maureen ... David Soul, Shaun Cassidy and Russell Crowe ...
The show, however, remains the star – it is bigger than anyone who has ever appeared in it. Why? My theory is because it comes from the heart and plays to the heart. It gives a voice to Britain’s working class and Russell tells it as it is, glee, grit and grime and all.
Poverty-stricken Mrs Johnstone already has seven mouths to feed when she falls pregnant again – this time with twins. Her employer – the middle class Mrs Lyons, cannot have children and persuades her cleaner to give her one of the babies.
Superstition has it that twins who meet again having been separated at birth will die. This inevitable fate hangs over the show – and no matter how many times you have seen or how much you will it, you know the story is going to end in tragedy and tears.
Therein lies the show’s power – the audience are being pulled in the one direction they do not want to go – to witness the end of two beautiful lives and the ruin of others.
The cast for the touring version is led by Linzi Hateley whose pedigree includes West End and touring stints. Her melodious singing and stirling acting is the perfect combination for this spirited, battling mum. From the first note of Marilyn Monroe through Bright New Day to the anthem-lament Tell Me It’s Not True, she’s note and mood perfect.
Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson are the perfect pairing as twins – who become best friends driven apart by class and superstition – Mickey and Eddie.
Jones brings a snotty-nosed, cheeky charm to Mickey, the twin who is kept by his mum, and Hutchinson is the embodiment of the disingenuous public schoolboy. Their numbers together Long Sunday Afternoon and That Guy are full of poignancy and longing – their friendship utterly believable as is their love for the same woman, which is their eventual undoing.
Jones wrung every ounce of pain of Mickey’s disintegration from cheeky chap into depressed dad so it could be felt from the back row.
Narrator Robbie Scotcher sings the story along at great pace – and is the menacing, devilish presence which gives voice to the demons of the two women who made the horrendous pact.
There is great support from Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons and Danielle Corlass as Linda, the mini-skirt wearing stiletto-heeled-tottering beauty both boys love.
This production is delivered with power, poignancy, humour and heart.
Even though you know it’s coming the finale is like a punch to the stomach – then you’re up on your feet, clapping, cheering and sobbing as the cast take their bows.
It is on at Bridlington Spa until Saturday October 6, performances daily at 7.30pm and a matinee on the Saturday at 2.30pm.
Tickets: 01262 678258