Linzi Hateley is a musical whizz, having starred in major productions such as Mamma Mia!
Now she’s turning her hand to a slightly more serious show, though with plenty of opportunities for comedic moments as Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers.
Take a look at this Q&A with Linzi to find out more about how she plans to put a unique spin on the role…
Mrs Johnstone is one of the all-time great theatre roles. Have you been longing to play her?
Absolutely. It’s a show people know and love and I’ve seen it a few times myself, and it’s one of those parts where you hope at some point you might fit the bill. It’s been a secret dream to get the opportunity to play her and now I am.
How do you hope to make the role your own?
It’s going to be an interesting process – I’m a mother myself and I’m working class. When you have natural connections to a part then hopefully you can bring a lot of yourself to it because that way it can be as truthful as it can possibly be.
What do you feel makes her such a coveted character?
There are more these days than there used to be but there still are very few iconic female parts in musical theatre, where you think ‘I’d love to have a go at that at some point’. It’s got everything. It’s comedic, it’s incredibly tragic, she’s strong but she’s vulnerable – it has it all in one big package and it’s written so brilliantly by Willy Russell. In a way, with a lot of his writing, it’s almost shocking that it’s written by a man because he has such an understanding of things from a female perspective. To get that sort of writing, particularly in a musical, is a very rare thing.
Why do you feel the show continues to enthral and move audiences 35 years after it premiered?
It is without doubt the best British musical there has ever been. It appeals to everybody. I’ve had that question asked of me many times when I’ve been in musicals that are so successful and I think the most successful ones tend to be the ones that appeal to an absolute wide range of people who can all relate to it in some way or another. It’s also nice when you have a musical that’s sort of more of a play than an actual musical. Sometimes the women might have to drag the men along but with Blood Brothers I think the men come out loving it just as much. It’s just a very collectively satisfying night.
What challenges does the show present to you as a performer?
I’ll be finding that out as I go along but the initial challenge is always about trying to sustain a performance and finding the right pitch to play it so it comes across to an audience. It’s a very emotional piece and I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking it on.
Can you recall when you first saw it?
I think the first time I saw it was the production starring Stephanie Lawrence, which I think was when it came back to London. Funnily enough years later I worked with Joanna Monro, who played the other mother in it. I worked with her in Mamma Mia! so it was nice to be able to chat to her about it because the production she was in was such a great one.
Did it move you to tears as it does everyone else?
Yes it did. It just has that effect on people, doesn’t it? Even though you watch it from the beginning knowing what the end is it still gets to you. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s going to be hard to play. I’m hoping I can get across what I need to and still be able to do it. In the song Easy Terms when she’s about to give one of her babies away I just hope I can get through it because, being a mum, I can’t begin to imagine having to give a child away.
You were just 17 when you had your first starring role in Carrie The Musical in Stratford, then you went to Broadway with it. What are your memories of the experience?
‘Traumatic’ would be the overriding term for it. It was an amazing launch pad but it was also a very difficult subject matter, then to have the opportunity to go to Broadway only to have it go so catastrophically wrong was quite a big thing on little shoulders. It was definitely a learning curve. I think I learned more about the business in my first job than any other because I had the highs and the lows all in one go.
Blood Brothers is only your second big tour in a musical, isn’t it?
It is yes. I toured with Barnum a couple of years back with Brian Conley, which started in Chichester and then went on tour. I was very nervous about touring because my daughter was doing her GCSEs so it wasn’t the most ideal time to be trekking off but she was able to tour with me for half of it once she’d finished her exams. I’ve always been fortunate that I’ve been able to stay at home a lot whilst working in the West End but I have to say I couldn’t get over how much nicer the audiences were. It’s interesting because you can’t have both – you can’t be at home but have those warm audiences you get on tour. They’re so thrilled that you’ve come to them. A lot of the time I’m performing for tourists in London so it was nice to play your own country, so to speak. That’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to about Blood Brothers, apart from having a crack at the part of course.
What do you have to have with you on the road?
Throat sweets. And actually it’s my husband this time. He can work from wherever so he’s coming on tour with me, which is great. So it’s throat sweets, the husband and the dog. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
I cannot WAIT to see Linzi Hateley take on the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone. Make sure you get your tickets early to see Blood Brothers at Leeds Grand Theatre from from 7th to 18th May.