Based on Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel and following up the 1991 film, The Commitments (directed by Jamie Lloyd) has survived its first year as a musical at London’s Palace Theatre.
Still popular a year on, The Commitments tells the story of Ireland in the 1980s, a time of political unrest and severe unemployment. Yet despite all of the hardships, it was also a time of incredible music, poetry and literature.
In The Commitments a group of young musicians form a band to bring soul to the people of Ireland, because they have “the power to make something beautiful, the power to create great music”.
As amateur musicians, the group start off rough and ready, and improve as the show continues and they perform to audiences. The band members’ own lives threaten to tear the group apart, with clashing personalities and bitter rivalry.
Denis Grindel continues in the role of Jimmy Rabbitte, the manager of the group, who holds it together, but doesn’t actually take part in the big group numbers. Grindel brings a sweet and charming side to Jimmy, but also clear grit and determination to the character.
While Brian Gilligan has a powerful voice and his interpretation of Deco is different and interesting, the character seems far less likeable and is actually quite irritating compared to Killian Donnelly who played the role previously. The three Commitmentettes complement his voice well and Anthony Hunt’s portrayal of Joey Fagan is very smooth and he somehow manages to ooze charisma.
The show is fun, but there’s no real excitement or conclusion to the story and at times it feels a bit under rehearsed, although no doubt the new cast are still settling into their new roles.
But the songs are classics and even if the show feels a little bit tired, it brings the audience to its feet with a finale that includes a rousing performance of Mustang Sally and the ever popular Try A Little Tenderness.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
The Commitments is playing at the Palace Theatre until 19 April 2015. Click here to book tickets.