Way back in 1991 film, The Commitments hit the cinema screens and what a joy it was at that time. Written by Irish Roddy Doyle, the musical show like the films follows the birth of a new band that has been put together, by budding band manager Jimmy (James Killeen) who is determined to bring a new sound to the streets of Dublin. The Commitments!
As we settle in our seats to await the start, the cast drfit on Christmas hats on heads and assemble drinks in hand and settle down on canteen style tables with piano is on stage, all gathered for the works Christmas party where singing and out performing each other is the order of the day. The show starts and we are greeted with a short song from Natalie (Maryann Lynch) who then gets pushed aside by drunk performer Deco (James Deegan). As he takes to the microphone belting out ‘Proud Mary’ with a confident voice, but apparently only when he is drunk. Climbing on the table and exposing his rather large belly. Jimmy then knew he could start to turn this band into a reality. The lead singer of his new band had been found.
Jimmy (james Killeen) has a good stage presence and certainly, comes across confident and allows you to relax in your seat. He plays frustrated, can’t wait to be a successful manager. As time goes on and the band members find their position within the group, Jimmy has to deal with the many artistic differences between the band members. Jimmy’s father (Nigel Pivaro). Terry Duckworth from Coronation Street. A small part and I struggled to say how he was that important for this musical, unlike his role in the film. Although there is a funny scene involving Jimmy and his Dad when auditionees knock on their front door for an impromptu audition.
Eventually the Band is formed, we are invited to join in (In our heads) to some incredible soul music. I looked around the theatre and watch the words from the songs of the stage being repeated across those of the audience. So engaging! With such great soul songs as ‘Knock on Wood’, ‘Chain of Fools’, ‘Think’ and others was a real joy to hear. Great musicians, backed up by some other musicians or backing tracks.
There were times in the show, where we were invited as an extended audience with a ‘concert’ feel rather than a musical, We were treated to an encore with James Deegan (Deco) encouraging us to repeat the vocal riff of ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘Land of 1000 Dances’ and ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ which ended with the whole cast invited audience to be on their feet dancing and singing along.
I have to mention the backing singers with powerful vocals from of Ciara Mackey (Imelda), Maryann Lynch (Natalie) and Sarah Gardiner (Bernie). River deep mountain high being a stand out moment. Complementing voices to each other.
A star in his own right (Supposedly) appears on a scooter, with a rock bible in hand Joey the Lips (Stuart Reid) an elderly performer working with many soul legends from around the world (Supposedly), A confident performer, with a relaxed vibe about him. Always calming situations and bringing a balanced approach to issues and solutions, as well as working his way romantically with the female members of the band. Joey is acted well, elevating his character into the limelight on many occasions.
One of my personal favourite characters is Mickah/Ray (Ronnie Yorke) who plays the skinhead bouncer, His job which he takes very seriously is keeping the band safe. He also takes on the role of drummer during a dispute. He is enjoying his part so much and it is infectious for us watching and trying not to laugh out loud whenever he is on stage. A very animated performance of a thug with a heart of gold that wanted to fit in and just wants to look after everyone on the stage.
The Direction of Andrew Linnie, does its best to engage that which took appeared in the film. If you have seen the film, then you can realise how difficult it is to get the audience involved in the action that the film did so easily.
The set was designed by Tim Blazdell also included a house where Jimmy lived with his Dad which was pushed through onto the stage through one of the garages on many occasions. We also were treated to several projections onto the set to take us to a night club, a pub and other places the band were playing in.
lighting by Jason Taylor really does involve us as the audience, with several time bright lights, shone out into the audience using various coloured spotlights. A bright flash letting us know the end of each act.
For me the story, didn’t transfer that well, but then I am spoilt having seen the film. When the band played and sang the songs, I was involved and enjoyed the songs, but sometime during the acting I did drift off at times. The end was a little weak, which was a shame. But then out came Jimmy said hello to us the audience and asked if we wanted to have a mini concert! Yes please I cried. Now the show got interesting as Deco (James Deegan) invited us to stand up and Mustang Sally and Try a little tenderness got us clapping and singing along. This could have been longer for me.
Looking around the theatre, the faces of the audience enjoying some great soul music and musicianship from actors who played instruments, such as lead guitarist, Outspan (Michael Mahony), Bass Guitar from Derek (Guy Freeman), Saxophone from Dean (Connor Litten) Trumpet from Joey the Lips (Stuart Reid) and drums by Billy (Ryan Kelly) and (Ronnie Yorke) Lifted my spirit and was still singing the songs on my journey home. The Commitments UK Tour, stills goes on. So if you love soul Music, happy to take the story with a pinch of salt, then The commitments is worth your time and money. 4 out of 5 stars from me. Great performances, great musicians, slow story. But great mini concert at the end.
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewer Mark Bilsby