The Commitments is the story of an Irish band that tries to bring soul back to Dublin. Based on the book by Roddy Doyle, the storyline of the musical version follows a very simplified tale of how the band form, break up and reform to play their biggest show yet. Throughout all the great soul hits of the time are played, including Uptight, Mustang Sally, and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.
Musically the performances were amazing. Killian Donnelly who plays lead singer Deco had one of the best male singing voices I have ever heard, and was perfectly complimented by backing singers Imelda (Sarah O’Connor), Natalie (Stephanie McKeon) and Bernie (Jessica Cervi) – who each get their chance to shine during the performance. My only musical critique would be that the songs could have been worked better into the storyline. The songs are only performed when the band is rehearsing or actually performing, rather than being used by the characters to express their feelings as in traditional musicals. For example, Try a Little Tenderness could easily have been sung as a love song between any number of the couples that form throughout the show, instead of being a number in the final performance.
In terms of the story it was very simple, and odd at times. The band must deal with the ego of lead singer Deco, the promiscuity of trumpet player Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (who incidentally is a born again Christian who is repenting for his former hedonistic lifestyle), and the doubts of others about their potential success. There is a definite lack of any proper character development (which I am assured does occur in the book) and the non singing characters, which includes manager and founder Jimmy, feel a little surplus throughout.
The set was phenomenal – the street, a bar, Joey’s garage, various venues, and the interior of Jimmy’s house were all created to give a realistic representation of Northside Dublin in the 80s. The street scene stayed constant, while all the other sets were individual moving parts which was hugely impressive visually. The costumes were also fantastic, and very true to the time. I especially loved the pink boiler suit warn by Natalie during rehearsals.
The band rehearsing in Joey’s garage.
Despite this is would really recommend The Commitments – it isn’t ground-breaking theatre, but it is a really fun show to take your family to, and the choice of amazing songs that most people know is enough to get everyone standing up and singing along at the end.