Corrie soap bad lad Nigel Pivaro reports back for stage duty in The Commitments after turning his hand to journalism

Father and son: Nigel Pivaro’s cynical Jimmy’s Da and James Killeen’s dreamer Jimmy Rabbitte in The Commitments. Picture: Ellie Kurttz

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.

Nigel Pivaro: Returning to the stage after a long hiatus when investigative journalism became his primary career

“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.

The poster for the 2022-2023 tour of The Commitments, announcing Coronation Street legend Nigel Pivaro as the star attraction

“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.”

Roddy Doyle: Writer of The Commitments. Picture: Anthony Woods

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

Corrie bad lad Nigel Pivaro to star in The Commitments at Grand Opera House

Nigel Pivaro: Committing to The Commitments for nine months

CORONATION Street legend Nigel Pivaro will play Da in the 2022-2023 tour of The Commitments, visiting the Grand Opera House, York, from November 7 to 12.

“I’m thrilled to be marking my return to the stage in this production,” he says. “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.

Now comes a new stage production that will kick off a nine-month British and Irish tour in Bromley in September and run until July next summer, taking in more Yorkshire runs at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from October 17 to 2022 and Hull New Theatre from October 31 to November 5.

Doyle says: “I’m delighted that The Commitments are coming back in 2022 and 2023 and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how Nigel Pivaro tackles the part of Jimmy Rabbitte’s Da.”

Pivaro, 62, who played lovable Corrie rogue Terry Duckworth from 1983 to 2012, will be directed by Andrew Linnie, whose West End debut came in the original production in 2013, playing the role of Dean, the band’s sax player. Linnie later starred in the lead role of Jimmy Rabbitte in the 2016/2017 UK tour.

Joining the cast as Deco will be Olivier Award nominee Ian McIntosh, no stranger to this role, having previously played Alternate Deco during the original West End run. His past credits include Galileo in the UK tour of We Will Rock You, Sid Worley in An Officer And A Gentleman and Barry in Beautiful – The Carole King, for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical in the Oliviers.

Further roles will go to James Killeen as Jimmy; Stuart Reid as Joey; Ciara Mackey, Imelda; Michael Mahony, Outspan; Ryan Kelly, Billy; Conor Litten, Dean; Guy Freeman, Derek; Stephen O’Riain, James; Ronnie Yorke, Mickah; Eve Kitchingman, Natalie, and Sarah Gardiner, Bernie.

Maryann Lynch, Alice Croft, James Deegan, Callum Martin, Joshua Barton, Ed Thorpe and Colm Gleeson will make up the ensemble.

Pivaro last appeared at the Grand Opera House in September 2003 in the role of hot-headed Judd in John Godber’s nightclub comedy Bouncers in a face-off with fellow soap bad boy, EastEnders’ John Altman, who played the pontificating yet pugilistic Lucky Eric.

His earlier roles in York were in Attempt To Kill, in 1988, and A Taste Of Honey, in 1989, both at the Theatre Royal; Steven Berkoff’s Greek, in 1993, at York Arts Centre, and as slimy talent agent Ray Say in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, in May 2000, at the Grand Opera House.

York tickets are on sale on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York; Shefield, 0114 249 6000 or sheffieldtheatres.co.uk; Hull, 01482 300306 or hulltheatres.co.uk.

A past production of The Commitments. Picture: Johan Persson

Back story of The Commitments

THE musical has been adapted from the novel by Booker prize-winning author Roddy Doyle, showcasing more than 20 soul classics performed live on stage.

Among them are Night Train; Try A Little Tenderness; River Deep, Mountain High; In The Midnight Hour; Papa Was A Rolling Stone; Save Me; Mustang Sally; I Heard It Through The Grapevine; Thin Line Between Love and Hate; Reach Out (I’ll Be There); Uptight; Knock On Wood and I Can’t Turn You Loose.

The Commitments tells the story of young, working-class music fan Jimmy Rabbitte, who transforms an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act that becomes the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced.

Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a haphazard heap of wannabes before finalising the members of his new band, which he names The Commitments.

Humour kicks in as the band get to know each other and their instruments, grappling with inter-group differences when muddling their way through early rehearsals for the first gig. Just as they improve and begin to gain a name for themselves, they combust.

The backing singers are more interested in the middle-aged, horn-playing legend; the singer has entered Eurovision; the drummer has walked out mid-gig and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career. How will it end?