KEVIN Kennedy can’t wait to bring West End smash The Commitments to Manchester for the first time but admits his return to his home city will start the rumours flying.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to my home city,” said the former Coronation Street star, who plays the Elvis-loving dad of would-be music mogul Jimmie Rabbitte
“I always enjoy showing off what I’ve been up to and that I’m not just a Corrie actor. I always get a buzz out of it and get such a great reception from the audiences in Manchester.”
Now 55, Kevin spent 20 years playing Curly Watts in the UK’s top soap.
“I’ve been invited to the new Coronation Street set and I’m hoping to get down there but that’ll set the rumours off again.
“Don’t forget I grew up on that show. It’s not just the cast but the crew and the press office and everyone involved are friends and I like to catch up with them. But I’ll have a cup of tea with them and the next minute the papers are reporting I’m back in the Street.
“To be honest it doesn’t bother me and who knows, one day it might be true!”
The Commitments, based on the novel by Roddy Doyle, is touring the UK’s major theatres for the first time after a two-year run in London’s West End.
It’s the tale of an ramshackle bunch of musicians who become the finest soul band in Dublin.
For music lover Kevin - as a teenager he was actually in a band with Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke who went on to become part of legendary Manchester band The Smiths - it’s a show which he couldn’t miss out on.
But he’s one of the few characters who doesn’t sing or play an instrument.
“Jimmie’s Da is a lovely character,” he said. “He’s one of those people who can cause chaos with his one liners and then goes back to reading his paper.
“It’s a lot of fun to play and it’s there’s a lovely arc to the storyline with him. At the beginning he’s not happy with all these people auditioning in his front room when he’s trying to read the paper. But then he slowly gets drawn into the drama and he realises that his son and these young people are doing something quite extraordinary and eventually is very supportive of his son.
“I adore Roddy Doyle. I was a massive fan of his books, especially the Barrytown Trilogy of which the Commitments is one. I read them when they first came out.
“Being of Irish stock I understood the language and the humour and, or course, the music speaks for itself.
“So when the opportunity arose I just thought why not? It’s a great piece of theatre and it’s the first time it has been out on the road so I thought, ‘yes, I’ll do this’. Plus my kids are massive fans of Roddy Doyle’s children’s books so they sort of put the tin hat on it by saying ‘you’ve got to do it daddy’.”
To many people Kevin will be forever associated with Curly Watts, the hapless supermarket manager on Coronation Street.
But since he left Weatherfield he has been a regular performer in the West End with show including Chitty Chitty Bang Band and We Will Rock You. He has also taken We Will Rock You, based on the music of Queen, on tour in America.
“I did a couple of West End shows even before I was in Corrie so I do have form if you like,” he laughed.
“But I’ve always had an interest in music and I trained as a theatre actor so to put the two together is a marriage made in heaven.
“I love musicals, I think it is a very interesting genre and a very different skill. Rather like Shakespeare or pantomime or even Brecht it’s a different way of doing the job and is very stylised. It has its own language which I find very interesting .”
The language of The Commitment remains true to the original novels which, Kevin believes, adds to its effectiveness.
“It’s very gritty,” he said. “It’s not X Factor and it’s certainly not Coronation Street, but I think it’s important that they kept that element in.”
Kevin has one regret about the show coming to Manchester - he won’t get the chance to see his beloved Manchester City.
“City are not at home at all while I’m there. so I’m pretty fed up about that,” he admitted.
“But it’s such excellent fun to be part of this show.”
The Commitments, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Monday, March 27 to Saturday, April 8. Details from 0844 871 3019