Book: Roddy Doyle
Director: Jamie Lloyd
Reviewer: Joanna Trainor
Toe-tapping, hand-clapping joy. The Commitments musical might not be exactly like the film, but it’s certainly still got as much soul as you’d expect and will leave you singing and dancing well into the night.
Soutra Gilmour’s Dublin council estate set is exceptional. Laundrettes, garages, homes, community centres; it twists, turns, moves in, out to show a whole range of locations. As impressive as it is, the constant moving of it during the first act does become slightly distracting with stage hands coming on and off a little too frequently. It does, however deliver a gloomy, disheartening backdrop to spur the band on to want to change their lives and make something of themselves. Bringing something as upbeat and infectious as soul music, to so grey and (amusingly) rainy a place creates a perfect contrast.
Killian Donnelly’s obnoxious Deco, is thoroughly irritating at times, but the overwhelming power of his voice and ability to sing Marvin Gaye’s ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ while eating chips, makes it easier to forgive his behaviour. Denis Grindel as Jimmy Rabbit, the enthusiastic band manager trying to expose soul music to the working class people of Dublin, has an intensely likeable quality that fills the stage whenever he comes on.
The cast of actor musicians are faultless in their performance. From the Andrew Linnie on the saxophone to Mark Dugdale on the bass The Commitments are definitely “the hardest working band,” and the chemistry they all have when playing together, particularly in the finale, is incredible to experience.
What goes a little by the wayside is the plot; this is surprising considering that Roddy Doyle himself wrote the show’s book. There are a few loose ends, and you miss some of the grittiness that the film and novel provides. The happy ever after ending comes around awfully quickly, and it’s difficult to reconcile how everything suddenly turned out alright. However, the show doesn’t really need to be life changing because it’s one of the most fun evenings you can have. The band’s gig that finishes the musical, finally gives you permission to get up out of your seats and dance along with them, as you’ve secretly been desperate to do since hearing their first song, The Supremes’ ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’.
The Commitments offers light-hearted, easy-going entertainment, and sometimes that’s all anyone needs at a night at the theatre.
Runs until April 2015