Published on July 11th, 2014 | by Gavin0
The Commitments Musical, Palace Theatre
“An Irish soul comedy musical- Is that even…a thing?” Was my first reaction when I was told about The Commitments, the hit theatre production taking the West End by storm. To say I was cynical about what sounded like a drunken idea taken too far would be an understatement; but after taking a trip to the Palace Theatre, I was made to eat my words.
The story is based on the best-selling novel by Roddy Doyle (whom I must add has no links to the music industry whatsoever) and is set in 1986. The curtains open and we’re introduced to soul music fan Jimmy Rabbitte (Denis Grindel) whom has sky high ambitions of managing Dublin’s first Motown inspired band, with only a hope and a prayer as his guide. He enlists a couple of mates and sets on the path of drafting in anyone with even an ounce of rhythm and blues in them, eventually forming The Commitments. The rabble of misfits includes the obligatory arrogant, rough around the edges lead singer Deco played by Ian McIntosh bears an uncanny resemblance to Robbie Williams in more ways than one.
Not to give too much of the storyline away, but just like many real life bands before them, The Commitments go through laughter, tears, tantrums, fights, adultery; all sending the audience into fits of giggles. The Commitments offers rip-roaring laughs from the outset; my favourite lines being “The Irish are the blacks of Europe” and “Jazz is like the wanking of the music world”. Oh, if that last line wasn’t clue enough, those easily offended by bad language should steer clear as there are more shites and fecks than I could care to count.
And that brings me on to the real draw of The Commitments, the outstanding playlist of Motown hits. Throughout the evening the characters make reference to “bringing the people’s music to the people”, and looking around the theatre at the crowd singing and dancing along in their seats as hit after hit is bellowed out from stage, it would be hard to disagree. The music comes loud and unashamedly raunchy; Deco’s rendition of The Persuaders It’s A Thin Line Between Love & Hate was particularly moving. Other personal highlights were Diana Ross & The Supremes Keep Me Hanging On and Wilson Pickett’s I’m A Midnight Mover.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The theatre purist may murmur about the lack of originality in the storyline as it mimics that of nearly every successful band since the dawn of time (a Pete Waterman lookalike even makes an appearance); but the character development more than makes up for any frailties. As you’d expect, the audience is predominately of a mature age, but don’t mistake that for a dearth of energy, the over 40s know how to bust a move!
When I read the synopsis, I wasn’t keen on what seemed like an Irish version of Grease; but The Commitments offers a unique twist on the story of soul, and is one that’s guaranteed to have you crying with laughter and tapping your feet from start to finish.
Booking until April 2015, tickets priced from £22.50.
The Commitments, Palace Theatre, 109-113 Shaftesbury Ave, W1D 5AYShare This Post