Review - The Commitments - National Tour


The Commitments - National Tour

The original stage show of The Commitments, Roddy Doyle’s first novel to feature the Rabbitte family which told the story of the world’s hardest working soul band, first appeared in the West End in 2013, 10 years later it’s back out on the road. Most people would be familiar with the story from Alan Parker’s 1991 film adaptation of Doyle’s book which also led to a bestselling film soundtrack, and it’s really the fantastic soul music of 60’s Motown that drives this musical. I would even argue it’s more like a play with music, as most of the songs are performances by the band rather than the characters singing songs to express their emotions.

The Commitments centres around Jimmy Rabbitte’s quest to create a soul band from a raggle taggle group of Dubliners, as he explains to them that Soul Music is the perfect representation of the struggles of the working class and the rawness of their lives. Through the course of the musical, we get to see the formation of the band and some wonderful performances of classic soul songs, then we watch it all fall apart as the disparate personalities in the band cause friction and things start to disintegrate, despite Jimmy’s best efforts to hold it all together.

There are some fantastic performances to be witnessed, James Killeen as Jimmy is the glue that holds the band together and he brings plenty of charisma and charm to his role.  Ben Morris has the most wonderful voice which fits the classic soul songs he gets to sing perfectly, but he also tackles a tricky role really well – Deco is certainly not likeable and is the cause of most of the conflicts within the band yet the audience still needs to like him despite his questionable behaviour. The Commitmentettes are also a vital part of the show providing the soaring harmonies and backing vocals and even each taking on solo songs as well, and Ciara Mackey as Imelda, Maryann Lynch as Natalie and particularly Sarah Gardiner as Bernie, who in my opinion was the best of the three with a powerhouse voice and attitude for days, were absolutely superb and the show lifted every time they appeared.

I should also mention Nigel Pivaro who provided great comic relief as Jimmy’s Da, who appears miserable and bad tempered but actually cares greatly for his son and is hiding a heart of gold.

The set designed by Tim Blazdell also serves the piece really well, accurately depicting Dublin council estates and the run-down bars and clubs where the group performs.

There are times where the script could include more development of the characters and the break up of the band is a little rushed towards the end, but that is more than made up for by the delivery of all those classic songs from I Heard it through the Grapevine, Mr Pitiful and Papa Was a Rolling Stone to Mustang Sally. It’s like going to a really great gig and by the time the show ends you really don’t want it to!

The shows strength is the music and the performance of every member of The Commitments, playing and singing live right in front of you and giving it everything they’ve got is hard to beat.

It’s everything you could want from a night out, and the 'craic' as they say in Dublin is outstanding, the World’s Hardest Working Soul Band have still got it!

The production is running at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday the 27th of May. Tickets are available here: https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2023/the-commitments

Full tour details can be found here: https://thecommitmentsontour.co.uk

**** 1/2 stars

Beverley Anne Harris

Join Beverley every Wednesday at midday for 'The Musical Lunch Box' here on Box Office Radio

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