This musical adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s 1986 book and successful film follows Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class Dubliner yearning to bring some life and music to his grey and downtrodden corner of eighties Dublin.
Jimmy (played energetically by Andrew Linnie) seeks his escape from dreary working life through managing a band, but not the likes of performers like Boy George and Soft Cell. He dreams of American Soul, inspired by the music of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and James Brown. With a head full of classic vinyl numbers, he sets forth as a fast talking music promoter, rounding up a motley crew of musicians and unlikely singing talent who share his musical passion (or the hope of a rock and roll lifestyle) to form The Commitments. In a fast paced whirl of blarney, spilt Guiness and increasingly lively covers, the show charts their raucous journey through auditions, jam sessions, bars, handful of performances and eventual implosion.
We settle into Doyle’s rain soaked streets and nicotine stained front rooms of eighties, working class Dublin. From the off, the pace was fast and shouty, (fecking shouty actually) as Jimmy tears about town to herd the talent and preach his soul gospel.
The sizable cast is a strong one, with standout performances in the key roles. Deco (Brian Gilligan) is a sensitive office worker turned lead singer and increasingly unlikeable diva. His physical performance and outstanding voice making him shine in even the most crowded bar scenes. The other three principal singing roles were the bands ‘backup’ singers. Natalie (Amy Penston), Imelda (Leah Penston), and Bernie (Christina Tedders). Three very different ladies, whose characters provided much of the continuity play between scenes.
Toe tapping favourites such as I Heard Through the Grape Vine, Knock on Wood and You Keep Me Hanging On, get the audience in the dancing mood. The thinish plot issues aside, you couldn’t fault the cast performances. The music was first rate, particularly in the more polished and tune heavy second half. My favourite performance was from the bands ‘security’, skinhead Mickah (Sam Fordham). His menacing mania ultimately winning us over, when you realise he just wants to be a part of something and boy can he play drums !
Coronation Street legend, Kevin Kennedy, stars as Jimmy’s Da and the caretaker. He plays his parts with skill and professionalism.
The performance ended with an encore after three truly great numbers (including Mustang Sally of course) that had a good proportion of the almost full house up on their feet. If you love soul,, this is well worth a look.
The Commitments is packed with more than 20 classic soul songs performed live 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, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can’t Turn You Loose and more!
Tickets are now on sale and are available from The Regent Theatre Box Office, by calling 0844 871 7649 or visiting www.atgtickets.com/stoke