AFTER switching to the fourth estate for a decade and more, Coronation Street bad lad Nigel Pivaro is putting down the notepad to star in the 2022-2023 tour of The Commitments.
“I’m thrilled to be marking my return to the stage in this production,” he says, ahead of visiting the Grand Opera House, York, from November 7 to 12 in the role of Jimmy Rabbitte’s Da in the Irish musical.
“It’s an iconic story that resonates across the years, about people who, though distant from the music’s origins, find communion and expression in the Motown style. A musical genre which was borne out of oppression and which the characters embrace as their own. The Motown Sound is as vibrant today as it was when it first burst through in the Sixties.”
Thirty-five years have passed since The Commitments first leapt from the pages of Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel with its story of the hardest-working and most explosive soul band from the northside of Dublin,
The 1991 film and a stage musical ensued. Now comes the latest nine-month British and Irish tour, running from next month to July, directed by Andrew Linnie, who played Dean, the saxophonist, in the original West End production in 2013.
The headline news in his cast list is Pivaro’s stage return at 62. “It came about from [playwright] Jim Cartwright saying, ‘how about coming back in? We miss you, mate,’” says Nigel, who forever will be best known for playing lovable Corrie rogue Terry Duckworth from 1983 to 2012.
“After Jim said that, I started doing some plays for BBC Radio 4, like The Corrupted with Toby Jones, and some commercials, and then the role of Da was offered to me two and a half years ago. I was chomping at the bit: the chance to stretch my theatre legs again in my first theatre role since Bouncers [in 2003].
“But then the first Covid lockdown stopped it for a year, and then more lockdowns put it back another year. Just great! It had been a bit of a slow start for me getting back in, then just as it was gaining momentum, something extraordinary scuppered it.”
Roll on to autumn 2022 for Pivaro’s first appearance at the Grand Opera House since September 2003, when his hot-headed doorman Judd clashed with a fellow soap bad boy, EastEnders’ John Altman’s pontificating yet pugilistic Lucky Eric in John Godber’s nightclub comedy Bouncers.
“I was away from the business for 15 years after that, training as a journalist after doing a Masters degree in International Relations,” recalls Nigel. “I did my NCTJ [National Council for the Training of Journalists) course in Liverpool, my work experience at the Manchester Evening News, and my first staff job was at the Tameside Reporter.”
Freelance reporting ensued for the Daily Star, the Sunday Mirror, the Daily and Sunday Express, and not least Jane’s Defence and Intelligence Review, reporting on military and security topics.
“I travelled to Ukraine in the first war in 2014 and did three tours there,” says Nigel. “So I did my journalism from the bottom up, pushing my specialist knowledge into my reporting.
“Over the years, I’ve done everything from interviewing ex-Corrie colleagues and stars from other shows to doing research for a Newsnight feature last year on the shortcomings of the Manchester police.”
Hold the front page, Pivaro has a musical to perform in a new commitment to the stage. “I did see The Commitments film, attracted to it by the music, not knowing what to expect, other than it was an Alan Parker movie, and I’d always liked him as a director,” he says.
“I was just knocked out by how the music and the story were woven together, when often musicals are, ‘right, let’s do another song now’. The Commitments has a strong narrative, with the music weaved into that story without it kicking you in the face.”
Pivaro has read Doyle’s book too, “but I’ve not seen the play, so I’ve got no preconceptions about the stage show,” he says.
“What I can say is there’s dramatic tension, there’s humour, and there’s music. What’s not to like?! There’s a big band with loads of characters, sexy girls, sexy boys, with all that tension that can happen between band members, even in a band on the back streets of Dublin, as much as between John, Paul, George and Ringo.”
For sure, the show will feature such soul staples as Try A Little Tenderness, In The Midnight Hour, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and I Can’t Turn You Loose.
“This is the music that has provided the soundtrack to our lives, as hits in the Sixties and Seventies, and then being re-played and re-played at weddings and funerals and parties ever since. They are the standards,” says Nigel, who admits to having preferred Sweet, Mud and Gary Glitter, “anything that harked back to rock’n’roll”, in his youth.
Will he be singing in the show? “No, I don’t think I get to sing a song, but Jimmy’s Da is a big Elvis fan, so I do get to do a few bars of Can’t Help Falling In Love, but that’s it,” he says.
The Irish accent will be key too. “I’ve done accents all over the place. That’s my job!” he says. “There are certain accents you find you can do off pat, like Liverpool, being a Manchester kid. This Dublin accent had better be there because we have two weeks there at the Olympia!”
Tickets for the York run: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York. For Hull New Theatre’s October 31 to November 5 run: 01482 300306 or hulltheatres.co.uk.
Copyright of The Press, York