After growing up with the songs of The Commitments, Jimmy Rabbite and drunken Christmas performances of Mustang Sally, when I heard Caroline Ranger and co had created a West End production of the much love working class film I was off on the train down to London, tickets in hand. It was delightfully entertaining and true to the original: the same fast paced narrative, characters that eff and jeff with every other word and packed full of hit songs. Oh, it’s also fecking hilarious.
Fresh from the West End, The Commitments & Joey the Lip’s Scooter headed off on its first UK tour and onto the stage of the Regent Theatre. For one week only.
If you’re blessed with youth and haven’t seen the original film (or read the original book by Roddy Doyle), The Commitments tells the story of young Jimmy Rabbite (Andrew Linnie), an aspiring musical mogul who has a vision to bring soul back to the streets of working class, 1980’s Dublin. Putting together a somewhat eclectic collection of novice musicians and one “been there, done that” Joey the Lips (Alex Mcmorran), The Commitments are formed following a series of lack lustre auditions in Jimmy’s bedroom. Throughout an hour and a half we witness the growth, rise and demise of Jimmy Rabbite’s brainchild. Jealous and fighting, the band, who despite attracting attention of press and prominent A&R reps, come off as amateurs and it’s not long before they split as rapidly as they come together. Much to poor Jimmy’s dismay.
Familiar haunts such as dingy pubs, the backstreets of Dublin and Jimmy’s Rabbite’s humble abode are cleverly transformed on stage and the talented cast really pay homage to the original film whilst still being relate able for existing fans and newcomers to the story. Lead singer Deco (Brian Gilligan) fronts up the band and is cause for the majority of the unsettle due to his high aspirations and annoying lovable self indulgence but as Jimmy points out, is irreplaceable due to his amazing voice. Gilligan hits those same notes as Andrew Strong and accompanied by the feckin gorgeous Imelda (Leah Penston), Natalie (Amy Penston) and Bernie (Christina Tedders) as The Commitment-ettes and the musical talents of the rest of the band, you’ll feel more like you’re watching an actual concert than spending an evening at the theatre.
With classic songs such as Papa Was a Rolling Stone, River Deep (Mountain High), Satisfaction, Try a Little Tenderness and of course, Mustang Sally, The Commitments is fit to burst with hit songs, soul and laugh out loud comedic timing mirror the down to earth feel of the original film. Kevin Kennedy as Jimmy’s Da is an unsung gem and whilst his scenes were few and far between, the relationship between himself and Jimmy was a dry but comical reflection of a father/son dynamic.
The Commitments runs at The Regent Theatre until Saturday 19th November. Tickets are available online or from the box office.