Originally a novel written by Roddy Doyle and then a film directed by Alan Parker, The Commitments has now become a smash hit, west end musical that has captured widespread attention from theatre fanatics. The story is set in North Dublin and tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, played by Andrew Linnie, as he attempts to assemble a group of young, working class musicians and singers to form a soul band. There is a political undertone throughout the show with the repeated mantra that ‘the hardest working band in the world’ were bringing soul to the working-class people. Although soul music is originally rooted in Southern America, The Commitments make it their own with an added raw edge that only the north of Dublin could bring.
Kevin Kennedy, better known as the beloved Curly Watts in Coronation Street, is no stranger to the West End stage and plays the role of Jimmy’s grumpy ‘Da’ brilliantly. Due to his impressive musical accolades from the past, it is to be expected that a role in the touring production of The Commitments would be somewhat of a dream job for Kennedy.
‘The Commitmentettes’ Imelda, Bernie and Natalie (played by Liverpool’s very own Amy Penston who studied in LIPA) were the perfect addition to an otherwise male dominated show. The feisty girls took no nonsense from the lads in the band and all three had an impressive set of pipes that rivalled the lead singer’s Deco, played by the brilliant Brian Gilligan, yet didn’t quite match his ego. Deco is the character you love to hate, or at least strongly dislike, yet Gilligan effectively captured the perfect balance of arrogance and charm that the Liverpool audience couldn’t resist.
The second half of the show focuses on the band attempting to get a record deal with many fancy music executives watching the band play and who were appropriately mocked for not quite fitting in to the world on the ‘hardest working band in the world.’ Due to this, the show begins to feel less like a piece of theatre and more like a live gig with The Commitments themselves; causing every audience member in sight to be on their feet, clapping and singing along to every word. There are many things that stand out about this show, but the genuine laughter that ensued from the carryings on and antics on stage are indisputable. Despite reviews and warnings of how funny this show is, it is still something that must be experienced first-hand to truly appreciate. What also makes the show special is the chemistry between the cast. There is a sense of true friendship, team work, blood, sweat and tears between those on stage and, appropriately, these are also all the components that are necessary to make a great band work. It seems pointless to highlight particular members of the cast for outstanding performances because there didn’t seem to be a weak link on stage, and all involved should be commended for the way the show has turned out. The Commitments oozes star quality and is a MUST see for any fan of the film, soul music or those who simply appreciate high class theatre content. The Commitments continues at the Liverpool Empire until the 21st January so grab tickets while you can!
Reviewer: Sarah Goldsmith
Reviewed: 17th January 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★★
Photo: Johan Persson