As brutal Cousin Kevin in The Who movie Tommy, Paul Nicholas gained something of a cult following.
Better known as one of TV’s nice guys, Paul was one of a string of stars who featured in the 1975 film, directed by Ken Russell.
In the autumn, he will be bringing the rock opera to Blackpool’s Opera House, to direct a new UK tour of the stage show with West End producer Peter Frosdick.
“I got this call out of the blue, as you do in showbusiness, saying would I go to this studio,” Paul said, recalling his involvement in the movie. “And there were director Ken Russell and Pete Townshend from The Who, who I knew from a tour I’d done which The Who headlined.
“They played me this Cousin Kevin song and asked me to record it, and it went into the movie.
“Massive stars of the time were in the film, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John, and me.
“Most of those artists had one song so it was like a series of cameo roles.
“This production, as a stage musical, is a much more fullsome production. The story is reworked and made more suitable for a two-hour show.
“The music remains the same but the drama is clearer and more intense.
“It’s certainly not just a concert version. It’s made more of a musical in the traditional sense, although there’s not much dialogue.
“I’m looking forward to recreating it. It’s my period, I understand the music.”
Peter and Paul have a long established working partnership, as co-producers and producer-performer, with past shows including tours of Jekyll And Hyde, A Tale Of Two Cities and Pirates Of Penzance.
And it was this track record which has seen them pair up for Tommy, which opens at the Opera House on September 11.
“Peter came up with the idea of Tommy and with my connection to the product, combined with knowing I have directed before, it seemed like a natural fit,” Paul said.
“The music still stands up and is very powerful, which is what The Who were known for. In Tommy you get rock music, but also if you want more than that you get the under-lying story to hold your interest for a couple of hours.
Blackpool will be becoming something of a home-from-home for Paul in 2015, as he appears in an all-star cast for a tour of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None at the Grand in April.
And he and Peter Frosdick will be back in the resort next Christmas, staging a new production of A Christmas Carol, a musical telling of the Charles Dickens classic, penned by Alan Menken - best known for Disney’s Beauty And The Beast and The Little Mermaid, Lynn Ahrens and Mike Okrent.
Paul will be heading the cast as Ebenezer Scrooge, a role he’s looking forward to creating.
“It will be a fantastic opportunity to do an iconic part at the right time of year – and to do it in that wonderful building is brilliant too.”
The grandeur of the Opera House is a perfect fit for the festive ‘spectacular’, somewhere Paul’s familiar with thanks to past performances in circus musical Barnum and concerts of Jesus Christ Superstar.
“The Opera House is a fantastic theatre and it’s going to be a big production, and real spectacular Christmas show, but a bit more than a panto for adults,” he explained.
“Nothing against pantomime, but Scrooge also gives me more as a performer to play with as well as a choice for people away from pantos - something for adults as a festive show more than children.”
* Visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk for details on booking both shows.