FROM the opening scene to the very last note, this performance of Willy Russell's now legendary musical is a triumph.

Though not a typical theatre goer, I've probably seen three shows in my life and one of them twice, I found myself captivated by this tale of twins separated at birth who live close by, but in completely separate worlds - one on the breadline with countless siblings, the other, an only child living a life of privilege.

Performed in the wonderful setting of the Empire Theatre - a recent £500,000 renovation sympathetic to its history and yet bringing it thoroughly up to date - I experienced the full gamut of emotions during the two hours and 45 minutes, which is some feat given my other half believes me to be something of a cold fish.

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Though the actors play parts spanning several decades of the characters' lives, it never feels like parody or caricature - I believed as much in Mickey (Sean Jones) aged seven as I did when he emerged into adulthood.

The same applies to Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone, who though probably older than her character would be at the start of the play is able to metamorphose through the years with her physical portrayal of a woman who starts out with hopes, dreams and aspirations and sees them torn apart as her life unfolds.

I particularly liked the role of Narrator (Dean Chisnall) who is an onstage presence throughout the performance, interacting with the characters, linking the scenes and assisting with the almost imperceptible set changes.

For me, this is not a show where I walked out with the songs filling my head, it's more about the story, funny, heartwarming and ultimately tragic. It's a must-see, even for non-theatre going types like me.