An energetic retelling of the story of Dubliner soul band, The Commitments, with outstanding concert sequences, says Jane McGowan
Based on the Roddy Doyle novel which itself spawned an award-winning Alan Parker film about a group of down-on-their-luck, working class Dubliners who decide to form a soul band, The Commitments stage show is now hitting the road after a good stint in the West End.
The story centres on Jimmy Rabbitte – a young man with big dreams and a passion for music. Although he can’t play any instruments he has the know-how and the vision to round-up a rag-tag bunch of would-be musicians and turn them into The Commitments – Dublin’s hardest working soul band.
And the cast certainly works very, very hard indeed. The action moves along at break-neck pace as we are led from Jimmy’ front room, the local pub, the rehearsal stage and back again. As the gang transforms from a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs into a roof-raising soul sensation, their musical success is mirrored by the breakdown in personal relations in the band mostly down to the diva behaviour of the unreliable lead singer Deco and the sexual appetite of the God-fearing older trumpet player, Joey The Lips, who works his way through the three female backing singers during the course of the show.
The young actors do a fantastic job – but the accents, authentic as they are, are a little hard to follow as the scenes race by, leaving jokes hanging mid-air as the audience is dragged along amid a stream of “fecks” and “yer bollocks”. And unlike the film, we were given no real sense of the crushing disappointment the inevitable collapse of the band brought on Jimmy or the rest of the members. Here, although crest fallen, Jimmy ends up with Joey’s moped and one of the singers and that seems to make up for everything. For me, this was a bit of an anticlimax to say the least.
The musical sequences are of course outstanding – and the actors do an amazing job of building the excitement and fervour of such classic tracks as Think, Knock on Wood, Try a Little Tenderness and Papa Was a Rolling Stone to name but a few. The sedate Monday-night crowd in Woking may not have been the most responsive during the musical numbers, but the evening did end in a standing ovation which rightly rewarded the cast for energetic endeavours.
Worth the ticket money for the concert sequences alone!
- The Commitments is at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking until April 22. For tickets visit atgtickets.com
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