Coronation Street’s Curly Watts, the nerdy ex-bin man and Bettabuys supermarket assistant manager, could have never dreamed of becoming an arena stadium rock star, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
But for actor Kevin Kennedy, who played Reg Holdsworth’s sidekick, it’s about to become a reality.
He’s been playing the part of ageing hippie Pop for three seasons in the West End version of Queen ‘jukebox hits’ musical We Will Rock You .
But the 51-year-old, who left the Street a decade ago after a 20-year stint, is now taking the role on the show’s first ever arena tour - which will see him in the spotlight at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, on May 30 to June 2.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch exclusive show highlights and cast interviews.
Featuring 24 classic Queen hits, the musical, which is celebrated 10-years in the West End, is set 300-years in the future on a world renamed the iPlanet. Rock and roll rebels Galileo (MiG Ayesa) and love interest Scaramouche (Lauren Samuels), are out to overthrow a live music ban imposed by Killer Queen (Brenda Edwards), who controls all with her evil henchman Khashoggi (Sean Kingsley).
Pop, Kevin’s character, is the elderly librarian trying to figure out the “exact date the music died”; world wise, serious, but a tragic-comic character who tried to hold everything together.
Sounds familiar. A Curly Watts of the future?
He laughs: “Yes. There are definitely similarities between Pop and Norman.
“But I think Pop is a little bit more wilder. He’s been in solitary confinement for a long time and it’s sent him a bit doolally. Think more Baldrick than Curly.
He says playing Curly has not been a curse, but “very much a blessing.”
“I’m very proud of the stuff I’ve done it the past. It still holds up, people remember it and if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be standing here today talking to you,’’ he admits.
“There’s been a lot of talk recently about me returning. There’s nothing planned. But absolutely I’d be willing. I have a good relationship with Granada and Coronation Street. It’s just about waiting for the right story and the right time.
“I’m quite happy doing this for the moment. I’ve been playing this role for a while. It’s a brilliant show. This has got everything that you could possibly want, because Queen music has always been big and so has Freddie Mercury. You couldn’t get a bigger front man then Freddie.
“And this show really lends itself to an arena. The toys are bigger, the songs are massive, the sets are big, the cast is big. So if you come along I can guarantee you will have a very good time.
“Queen were very much an arena band and the songs were very much arena anthems. Whether you’ve seen the show in a theatre or not, it’s worth coming to see in an arena because of the size of the production.
“It still holds that lovely intimate story.”
Killer Queen Brenda Edwards, an X Factor finalist now West End star, described her role as a “not-so-bad baddie”.
“She’s a lovely character, full of life and very vivacious. It’s a great role. I get to wear lots of lovely costumes, some outlandish make-up and my hair is massive. It’s just a rocking show, built for an arena.”
Brenda, is featuring a song from the show ion her debut soul album, Bring It Back, with details at at brendaemusic.com.
She said: “The last time I was in Sheffield was with the X Factor tour. So its nice to be back doing the Motorpoint again. I can’t wait to get out on stage and really rock it up for the Sheffield guys and I know they are going to rock.
“If you feel like clapping, singing, you know, sing along. It’s all about interaction. That’s what we’re looking for from the Sheffield audience and I know they are not going to disappoint.
Elton wrote the musical and directed this production, with Arlene Phillips overseeing the musical staging and choreography. Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor are music supervisors.
In truth, the real show-stoppers remain the songs of Freddie’s old band.
And the hits keep coming, including I Want to Break Free, Under Pressure, A Kind of Magic, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, We Are the Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody and of course, We Will Rock You.
MiG Ayesa, who has starred in productions all over thee world, agrees that his role of lead character Galileo is nothing short of a reincarnation of Freddie.
“I get all these psychic readings from rock ‘n’ roll heroes from the past, especially Freddie. I feel a connection with him. Brian said that I reminded him of Freddy. You just can’t beat the music of Queen,” says MiG, who was born in the Philippines but grew up in Australia.
“And this is a different scale of show. When you’re singing all these mammoth rock anthems in arenas it feels like you are the rock ‘n’ roll hero you’ve always dreamed of being.”
Lauren Samuels, a contestant on the BBC’s Over The Rainbow leading to the role of Sandy in a West End production of Grease, plays “a very sarcastic kind of bitchy tomboy” Scaramouche agrees.
“At the end when it’s We Will Rock You followed by We Are The Champions followed by Bohemian Rhapsody... you don’t get much better than that,” she says.
“You can see the audience with their arms in the air and the band are going wild. There’s no feeling like it.”
X Factor finalist Lucie Jones, as rebel babe Meat, reprises her headline-grabbing London triumph, and says: “It’s flamboyant, beautiful, gritty and rock and roll sexy. I absolutely love it. It was the first West End show I went to see and I’ve wanted to play this role ever since. I’m literally living my dream.”
Sean Kingsley as Khashoggi, boss of the thought police, slips in a few trademark Freddie mannerisms in his thunderous Seven Seas of Rye. He said: “It’s a great role. I look like an old school James Bond baddie. It’s a wonderful part with fantastic songs. This is a must see show.”