The combination of fine writing, a superb cast of young unknowns, (including Antony Sher, Bernard Hill and Trevor Eve), and Barbara’s idiosyncratic interpretation of Beatles songs made the show hugely successful. The show’s co-producer, Robert Stigwood, signed Barbara to his record label, RSO Records, where she recorded the album ‘Answer Me’, the title track becoming a top ten hit in 1976. This led to her guest residency on the much-loved series ‘The Two Ronnies’, which brought Barbara’s singing to the attention of more than 10 million BBC viewers every week. Also impressed by Barbara’s performance were Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who invited her to record ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ from the new musical ‘Evita’, which became her second hit in 1977. Other hits including ‘Caravan Song’ and ‘January, February’, followed in 1980. In 1982, Willy Russell asked Barbara to star in his new musical ‘Blood Brothers’ in the pivotal role of the mother, Mrs. Johnstone. Although at first reluctant to accept, having never acted before, (not even in a school play!), she rose to the challenge, in the process garnering critical acclaim as well as Actress of the Year in a Musical from the Society of West End Theatres in 1984. Later that year, Tim Rice approached Barbara to take part in the cast album recording of the musical ‘Chess’, which included the song ‘I Know Him So Well’, a duet sung with Elaine Paige.
The song was a worldwide hit and remained at number one in the UK charts for many weeks. During the 1990s Barbara appeared in various TV dramas including ‘Taggart’, the award winning ‘Band of Gold’ and ‘The Missing Postman’. Acclaimed writer and director Chris Bond created a show for Barbara in 1996 called ‘The Seven Ages of Woman’ which won her the Liverpool Echo Actress of the Year Award. It premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse and toured extensively in 1997 and 1998. In 1999, Barbara starred in ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’, a new musical by Steve Brown and Justin Greene. The show, based on the rollercoaster life story of pools winner, Viv Nicholson, played in the West End to capacity audiences. For her portrayal of Viv, Barbara was awarded ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ at the 2000 Laurence Olivier Awards. Barbara continues to appear in concert and on record.
She has in the last few years had great success with ‘The Platinum Collection’, which featured some of her most successful recordings. Her last album, ‘Full Circle’, a journey back through her musical history, was hugely admired and well reviewed. Barbara’s most recent CD is an eclectic collection of the songs of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison called ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My World.’ During 2006 she has appeared as the Timekeeper in Alan Ayckbourn and Denis King’s fantasy musical play ‘Whenever’ for BBC Radio 4 and presented ‘Finding A Voice’, also for BBC Radio 4. Married with three teenaged sons, Barbara lives in Lincolnshire. An O.B.E. was conferred upon her in the Queens’ New Year’s Honours in 2002.
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