Image by Johan Persson
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Until Saturday 8th April, 2017
Having premiered at the Palace Theatre, London back in September 2013, closing just over two years later in November 2015, Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments now arrives in Manchester as part of its long awaited first UK tour, though considering Doyle’s original novel was published in 1987, and the subsequent film adaptation was released in 1991 – both of which have gained a huge cult following over the years – it is perhaps very surprising to think it has taken so long for a stage musical adaptation to appear.
The first episode in Doyle’s bestselling The Barrytown Trilogy, The Commitments is the tale of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan in the Northside of Dublin who shapes an unlikely group of unemployed friends, colleagues and acquaintances into the hardest working soul band in the world.
Adapted by Doyle himself, the show’s book unsurprisingly retains large chunks of dialogue from both the novel and film, effectively capturing the hilarious wit of the novel, the bold, raucous nature of the characters and the gritty, working class sprit that drives the tale.
With Doyle’s script at its core, The Commitments is far more than your standard run-of-the-mill jukebox musical, adding a much greater sense of depth and dimension to the characters as they struggle to escape their drab council estates and strive for success (despite brutal personality clashes and break-ups along the way), though as engaging as the story and characters are, it is in the thrilling live numbers that the show really comes into its own.
Featuring over twenty classic numbers from the soul music songbook, including Try A Little Tenderness, Mustang Sally, River Deep, Mountain High and I Heard It Through The Grapevine – all played live by an exceptional cast of actor-musicians – the music is the true essence of the story, and the show is at its most effective and dynamic when the full band come together to perform.
Brian Gilligan is of course a stand-out as the obnoxious, conceited, yet vocally gifted frontman Deco Cuffe, using his superb rock/soul tenor to memorable effect throughout, though this is very much an ensemble piece in its truest sense, and there are great performances across the board.
Andrew Linnie is another stand-out as the passionate, yet consistently frustrated young manager Jimmy, with excellent supporting turns from principals John Currivan, Padraig Dooney, Sam Fordham, Christian James, Alex McMorran, Peter Mooney, Amy Penston, Leah Penston, Christina Tedders, Rhys Whitfield and Kevin Kennedy as Jimmy’s cranky ol’ Da’.
Unfolding against Soutra Gilmour’s bleak, evocative set, The Commitments is a simple tale very much driven by its superb performances, though there is a spark that feels notably absent, and the reason for this lies in the overall sound levels, as the volume is sadly never loud enough to deliver the blistering, raw power the show (and music) requires.
… Please turn the music up – the actors deserve it!
Running Time: 2 hours and 25-minutes (approx.) (including one 20-minute interval)
Final Performance at the Palace Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 8th April, 2017
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.