Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Commitments, Palace Theatre

So off to the theatre we went, the Palace Theatre, to be more precise, to see a world preview performance of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments.

I love everything about The Commitments movie - the music, the story, the humour – and was so excited when we booked our tickets. However, I have to admit, as the date came nearer, I was a bit sceptical. The movie is real, dirty and gritty, not to mention the rainbow of language used throughout… Were they really going to bring all of that to the West End stage?

But when the spotlights blasted into action, the curtain lifted, and the first spoken words were “F*** OFF!”, I knew we’d be alright! For those who haven’t read the book or see the movie (what have you been doing with yourself?!), The Commitments is set in Dublin in the late 1960s, where a young lad called Jimmy Rabbitte has dreams of forming and managing a soul band. After roping in a few friends and holding some hideous auditions, Jimmy gets his 10-piece together, complete with a Soul “legend”, Joey, a powerhouse vocalist, Deco, and three pretty back-up singers. But with a clash of personalities, ideas and talents, will they even make it to their first gig?

The cast were incredible. All Irish (which is funny, because I had thought some accents had been a bit dodgy!), the stand out for me had to be Killian Donnelly. He was everything you wanted him to be as Deco. When he was singing, you couldn’t take your eyes off him, but when he wasn’t, he was so repulsive that you had to look away! What a voice though. Although Andrew Strong (who plays Deco in the film) will always be one of my favourite male vocalists, Killian Donnelly does it absolutely in his own way. In fact, all of the members of the cast did; it was like we might have met them all before somewhere, without knowing them too well. All had great voices and, although I think only drummers, trumpeter and saxophonist were playing live, I’m going to pretend everyone else was too (!).

I was also really impressed by the staging of the musical. Pieces of set effortlessly moved across the stage to take you from one location to the other and, in the early scenes when there are flashbacks, one neon sign coming momentarily down from the ceiling was enough. Sitting in Row G of the stalls, when someone lit up a cigarette we could smell it, and when Joey brings in a bag of chips for everyone, warm vinegar filled the air. We were all rolling with laughter throughout, in between clapping and singing, and when you think it’s all coming to an end too quickly, don’t worry, because you get your own little concert at the end - and it’s the two songs you’ve been waiting for all night. The soundtrack included some Commitments classics (though not all), and some new ones too, like “Satisfaction”, "Heard It Through The Grapevine" and “Knock On Wood”.

The Commitments is absolutely timeless, and this musical has done nothing to alter that. If anything, it adds to its history, and I hope it brings Roddy Doyle’s wonderful story to more and more people. 

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