Reviewed on Wednesday 8th October 2014
As soon as the announcement was made that Jamie Lloyd would be at the helm of the stage musical adaptation of The Commitments, my heart exploded with anticipation. As a child of soul, growing up watching the iconic movie version of Roddy Doyle's gritty and hilarious novel and obsessing over the characters and music so much that I started a soul band of my own when I was 17, it had always baffled me why it had not been done before.
Now officially hitting its first birthday, The Commitments seems to still be going strong, packing out London's ginormous Palace Theatre night after night and raising its roof with the sounds of the greats, such as Ottis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett.
The story follows Jimmy (Denis Grindel), a music lover and band manager, living with his parents in urban Southern Ireland as he works to put together the hottest new band around. After a series of comically bad auditionees pass by his doorway to sing their hardest down the hall, Jimmy finds the men and women who have what it takes, led by the powerhouse voice of Declan 'Decco' Cuffe (Brian Gilligan). Under the mentorship of Joey 'The Lips' the band quickly go from shite to shine until the tensions of love, lust and ego grow to breaking point.
Gilligan's Deco manages to pull off being totally irritating but completely loveable with ease, stealing every scene he's in. His big voice, however impressive, somehow seems to just fall short by always sounding musical theatre rather than being gritty with soul, but this is the only chink in Lloyd's otherwise slick production.
Soutra Gilmour's intricate design leaps into the two worlds of urban Dublin and live music, creating a mind blowing set that hypnotises like a giant Rubik's cube constantly changing. The attention to detail on all corners will offer the audience a whole world of depth to get lost in. Finally Alan Williams' arrangements does the difficult job of taking well known songs and delivering them so they feel both recognisable and fresh at the same time.
The Commitments is not a musical in the strictest sense, but a play with music which will help attract those who may shun the world of musical theatre, and whilst Doyle's characters are funny there is little depth to be had here, but that is not what this is about. The Commitments is a fun night out which will have you up and dancing in the aisles so, if for no other reason, go and dance and sing and clap your working class hands along to the hardest working cast in town.
Reviewed by Dan Phillips
Please visit www.thecommitmentslondon.com for info and tickets.