Sheffield theatre is stage for Nolan sister Maureen’s tears

Maureen Nolan and Marti Pellow in Blood Brothers, coming to the Lyceum Theatre, sheffield
Maureen Nolan and Marti Pellow in Blood Brothers, coming to the Lyceum Theatre, sheffield

Blood Brothers star Maureen Nolan is notching up her 10th year in the role of Mrs Johnstone – and she still cries on stage every night.

Maureen is one of 1980s girl band the Nolan Sisters and she and her sisters are already in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest number of siblings to take on the same role.

Four Nolans have now played the poor mum whose agonising decision to give up one of her twin boys to her rich employer is at the centre of Willy Russell’s hit musical.

Maureen said she first took on the role in 2005, performing for two years in the West End.

She added: “I’ve been in and out of the touring shows ever since. I’ve done the last six consecutive tours.”

She keeps coming back because “it’s just my favourite thing to do. I absolutely love it.

“I just think it’s a fantastic story that the audience loves. You can see them being affected by it.

“My part is feisty and funny and I get to sing some beautiful, haunting songs. What else is there?”

Maureen’s sister Bernie, who sadly died from cancer in 2013, was the first Nolan to take on the role, followed by Linda, Denise and lastly Maureen.

She said that the sisters often laugh about some of the things that have happened to them in the show.

Maureen says that she still laughs at the jokes in the show when she watches rehearsals, adding: “The cast say, ‘you really need to get out more!’

“I’ve cried every single night I’ve been in it. If you don’t feel it then the audience won’t, either.

“I have to go to some horrible places to do that or the audience will miss out on that emotion.”

She admits she feels the pressure of expectation as so many Blood Brothers fans come to see the show again and again.

She loves the show so much that she finished playing the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella in Ipswich last week and joined the latest Blood Brothers tour preparations two days later.

Sheffield is the first stop on the tour and she’ll be in the role until May.

Maureen said: “I’ll get a few days at home to unpack and wash my stuff and pack again! I’ll be able to come home every weekend while I’m Sheffield because it’s not many miles from Blackpool, where I live.”

She’s well used to life on the road, of course, having toured with family acts from the age of nine.

Several of the younger generation have chosen singing careers, including sister Coleen’s son Jake, who is frontman of the band Rixton. Maureen says all the children can sing.

Would she advise the youngsters to go into showbusiness, though?

“I wouldn’t discourage them but I wouldn’t encourage them, either. One of my grandchildren is quite obsessed to go into it. She is in a little dance school and when they do shows, she loves it.”

Maureen said: “It’s so easy to be swayed by it all. I tell them just be aware of the sharks who appear to love you.”

She joked that Loose Women star Coleen was constantly texting Jake to be sure he isn’t tempted by drugs!

As for her own career, Maureen said she would love to do more musical theatre and “TV would be brilliant but there’s still that stigma of having a pop career and not starting as an actress. It’s difficult to shake that off.”

She said that only Bernie, who starred in The Bill, managed to be taken seriously as an actress.

The 60-year-old adds that all actresses struggle for roles as they get older anyway: “When you hit 50, you’re invisible. We’ve all experienced it.”

Ironically, though “a part came up and they said, ‘she’s too young’. I was exactly the same age!”

Maureen says she is looking forward to returning to Sheffield to see how it’s changed.

She has been before on other tours of Blood Brothers and first visited during her singing days, when the Nolans appeared at big clubs like the Fiesta.

She said: “The Lyceum is just the most beautiful theatre and we always have a great time. This time I’ve got digs with four of the girls in the cast.”

Sounds like Maureen might be in the mood for dancing while she’s here!

Blood Brothers, which also stars former Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow, starts its two-week run at the Lyceum next Tuesday, January 13.

Box office: at the Crucible, online at or call 0114 249 6000.