Review: The Commitments 

I’ve never before seen elderly grand parents and little six year olds all dancing in the aisles of the Grand Opera House but it happened on Tuesday evening and I bet it will be the same all week.

The Commitments call themselves the hardest working band you’ll ever hear and certainly the cast of this Roddy Doyle production work hard but it’s obvious they love it and so do we.

When Doyle wrote the book and subsequently the film version they were both immediate hits and he must have wondered if a stage version would be up there with his other successes, well he need not have worried, it was terrific. Vibrant, colourful, buoyant; great singers and musicians make up the cast but you tend to forget this is a stage show, we watch as Jimmy Rabbitte (Andrew Linnie) from the Northside of Dublin fulfils his dream of forming a soul band. He and his father (Kevin Kennedy) audition possible band members, in and out like dose of salts until he finds what he wants, musicians of various talents and three feisty young women singers. They were on their way. Some of the funniest scenes come during rehearsals, the actors all play their own musical instruments on stage, the drinkers in the bar at McBirneys Confectionary, ‘The sweets that feed Ireland’, are all in character and the bouncer almost steals the show.

The action started quite slowly, we were engrossed in the business of Jimmy and his attempt to get the best group of soul musicians together and take the world by storm. As the story moved along we become involved in the music, hand clapping, whistling, a few whoops from the girls when Deco (Brian Gilligan) shakes his hips. But eventually cracks and splits begin amongst these young people, jealousy, disillusion and love affairs lead to fights and fall outs. “But soul is the rhythm of the people,” pleads Jimmy, “and we’ve got soul.” It wasn’t enough, jazz was the thing – too many restricting walls in soul, none in jazz.

Dry ice and a glitter ball might give the idea that the band have arrived but it isn’t to be. It all fizzles out. Jimmy might get the girl in the end but he never gets his dream.

The music is 1986, River Deep Mountain High, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Try a Little Tenderness and of course Mustang Sally. We raised the roof.

You’ll be lucky to get a ticket at this stage, the word has gone round that this is a sensationally happy show and tickets are like hen’s teeth but worth a try.

Anne Hailes

The Commitments
Grand Opera House
Until Saturday 28th January 2017

Post Author: Belfast Times

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