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The Commitments

The Commitments

The Commitments is a fantastically feel good celebration of soul. Returning to tour the UK and Ireland 5 years after a phenomenally successful, record breaking run in London’s West End and subsequent sell-out tour. The Commitments is based on the BAFTA award-winning film classic.

The Commitments received universal critical acclaim following its London World Premiere and was quickly hailed as a smash hit musical sensation. With over 20 soul classics performed live on stage including: Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can't Turn You Loose and more!

The Commitments musical has been adapted from the novel by Booker prize winning author Roddy Doyle himself and is directed by Caroline Jay Ranger.

The Commitments Tickets

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The Commitments ON TOUR

Our review on The Commitments

The Commitments - Manchester Opera House - Monday 5th June 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

“I chose ‘60’s music – Motown and Memphis soul – because, at the time, it felt timeless.  Thirty-five years later, I was right.” - Roddy Doyle, The Commitments creator & writer never spoke a truer word because, yes Roddy - you were spectacularly right!  This music evokes a vibe, a pulsating rhythm in your gut and connects us all universally as it escapes from your fingertips into a collective joy that has you instinctively clapping along.  And when this music is the basis of a musical, then you know you’re in for a good night. 

As the cast haphazardly enter the stage to join their office Christmas party, house lights are still up, audience members are still chitter chattering away, and it clearly confuses some entering the theatre at the last minute into thinking that the show has started, but nobody is actually sure if it has or hasn’t.  Then the office karaoke starts, signalling that the show has officially begun.  It is a brilliant yet bizarre way to kick things off but as the first notes of the show ring out, which just so happen to be the epic “Proud Mary,” the party tempo is set and a brilliantly relatable Christmas office party unfolds with fabulous little nuggets of detail from everyone on stage.  It is this party that brings the vocal gymnastics of Deco to the attention of Jimmy, who bored and frustrated with his job in a sweet factory, wants to create a band with music that speaks to the ordinary, working-class folk in Dublin.  Starting out with just his two pals, Jimmy decides to hold auditions to put together “the hardest working band” there is.  Lots of dodgy auditions later, The Commitments are born.

But what successful band ever had a smooth path to stardom?  Add in a few egos, a few girls who all fall for the same guy, and then all the guys falling for the same girl, clashing personalities, and opposing priorities from sitting exams, to religion, to Eurovision, then the inevitable split is only ever a headbutt and a broken nose away.  As Deco’s behaviour causes more and more tensions, not even the promise of a record deal can save this turbulent band and the raw inexperience that made them so fresh, unique, and brilliant, also becomes their undoing.  But this is a musical, so even when The Commitments are no more, we can still enjoy a mini concert at the end of the show for old times sake!

The pacing of the story has moments of cleverly interwoven scenes, such as the auditions.  Instead of making us sit through a long drawn out scene that resembles the X Factor, bursts of comical auditions are merged against another scene, almost like a game of table tennis, as the two separate ideas ping back and forth.  Other times, scenes play with one too many pauses or static energy so that the momentum that has been built up starts to fade slightly, such as during one of the rehearsal scenes.  And even though the music is constantly changing here due to the nature of it being a rehearsal, you don’t get the chance to grasp on to any one song before it has bluntly ended to be replaced by script, so you can’t even clap or show appreciation for the fantastic job they are doing, leaving you feeling a bit lost at times.

As fresh characters are introduced, new energies are ignited, and this is certainly the case when we meet Mickah – the bands security.  Played by Ronnie Yorke, he sets the stage alive with such comedic characterisation that you find yourself waiting for his next appearance.  Yorke was definitely an audience favourite as his attention to detail was hilarious.  Ben Morris as Deco has a sensational voice that should surely put him on first name terms with the gods of soul and rock n’ roll, for he brought the house down.  I have to give him huge credit for his handling of an audience member too.  During the final encore of Try A Little Tenderness, that we all know starts deliciously slow, tender, and soulful, someone decided to sing along quite loudly.  Before the audience could turn on her, Morris started laughing, stopped the song, and in character, went in search of her, found her, and told her to shut up as it was his f*&!ng song!  Brilliant!  Job done, crisis averted, and he did it with such playfulness that he was still giggling away as he started singing again.

James Killeen as Jimmy is a natural.  He provides us with a dry delivery, ensuring that Jimmy is rooted in realism.  You can see the dreams and aspirations pouring out of him, and as such, it provides a touching moment towards the end of the show with Nigel Pivaro who plays his Da.  As Jimmy’s dreams are shredded in more ways than one, Pivaro creates a tender moment in the script by showing us that Da is proud of his son, and all he has achieved.  They make a great partnership and each allows the other to shine.  

It seems wrong to label Ciara Mackey, Sarah Gardiner and Eve Kitchingman as the backing singers because they were anything but!  Sassy, strong, and sensational, they belted their hearts out and acted their socks off, and their harmonies were phenomenal.  This entire cast are all fantastic, multi-talented, and its brilliant to see how they have each honed such individual and clearly defined characters.  Stuart Reid as Joey The Lips for instance is an enigma, as a seasoned musician who has played with the greats and clearly lived a rock n’ roll lifestyle for years.  Yet he is only ever a bible quote away from preaching to the rest of the band, and even though he is steeped in religion, is the one who easily sleeps his way through the backing singers!  Yet Reid still offers us a fully rounded character that steers entirely clear of any kind of caricature.

Tim Blazdell has designed a fascinating set.  At first, it appears to be a simple base line with a mezzanine, but it is anything but.  Multiple doors on the lower level open to reveal Jimmy and Da’s living room, complete with stairs that lead up to Jimmy’s bedroom – at least it is Jimmy’s bedroom for now.  A subtle shift in lights allows it to become a club balcony, a walk way outside a high rise set off flats, and the doors below reveal multiple locations including Joey's garage where the band rehearse, a bar, and even a butchers!  With the ease of small props such as the sweet factory canteen table, or a butcher’s uniform, we can even have numerous locations all on stage at the same time, to help move the story along as the band members all rehearse on their own.

The script is raw, funny, and so colloquial that it really does feel like a bunch of mates down the pub teasing each other relentlessly, with the ever-present threat of it spilling over into something more or crossing the line.  It’s pumped full of testosterone, paving the way for some grimy humour, such as Deco rearranging his junk whilst stood in nothing but his Y-Fronts, or swirling his finger around his belly button then sniffing his finger.  Maybe not everyone’s cup of humour tea on the surface, but these moments certainly evoked a huge knowing groan from the audience, followed by nothing but laughter at the icky realism of it all. 

But the big hook of the show is its music.  These songs are the stuff of legends.  They have a life force of their own and you willingly play host to their invasion of your mind, body and soul.  Knock On Wood, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Think, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Signed Sealed, Delivered, Mustang Sally, River Deep Mountain High – these songs didn’t come to play – they came to slay!  I mean, come on!  With The Commitments, you get to spend your evening in the echoes of Otis Redding, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Mack Rice, Jimmy Ruffin, and I am certain that everyone of these superstars would have been the first to applaud the actors, singers and musicians on stage tonight, because the only thing that left me disappointed is that this cast isn’t a real band as I would love to be at a full concert of theirs.  And judging by the electric response from tonight's audience, I’m not on my own. 


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