The Commitments

For anyone who is a fan of the 1991 film, The Commitments on stage is a must see. Written by Roddy Doyle, the show charts the birth of a new band put together by Jimmy (James Killeen) who is passionate about bringing a new sound to the streets of Dublin.

We open with a drink fuelled works Christmas party where singing and performing are obviously the highlight.  Deco (James Deegan) takes to the microphone belting out ‘Proud Mary’ and it was from that performance that Jimmy knew he had to be the lead singer of his new band.

James Killeen who plays Jimmy commands the stage well as the frustrated manager, having to deal with the many artistic differences between the band members. Even though we don’t hear Jimmy sing very often, we hear a small rendition of Mr Pitiful which was heartfelt.  Jimmy’s father is played by Nigel Pivaro, perhaps best known as Terry Duckworth from Coronation Street.  Even though this role is not a particularly big part, Pivaro captured the essence of ‘Da’ as played by Colm Keaney in the film.

The band attracts many characters, too many to mention, however once the band has been formed, we are treated to some incredible musical numbers.  Soul music is completely infectious and perhaps one of my favourite genres, so to hear such classics as ‘Knock on Wood’, ‘Chain of Fools’, ‘Think’ and ‘Mr Pitiful’ really is a joy.  There were moments in the production where there was more of a ‘concert’ feel than a musical, but all the same the atmosphere was electric especially during the encore when James Deegan (Deco) bounded around the stage for ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘Land of 1000 Dances’ and ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ which ended with the whole audience on their feet dancing and singing along.

No band is complete without backing singers and these vocals came courtesy of Ciara Mackey (Imelda), Eve Kitchingman (Natalie) and Sarah Gardiner (Bernie).  There were many stand out moments provided by this trio and their voices blended perfectly. 

We also meet Joey the Lips (Stuart Reid), a star in his own right who has performed with many a soul legend, well so we are led to believe! He has a ‘chilled’ vibe about him being the voice of reason within the group.  Reid plays this role so well, elevating the character to the forefront on many occasions.  He is also somewhat of a lothario amongst the female members of the band, much to the other younger musician's annoyance who all have a soft spot for Imelda.

Another cast member that definitely needs a mention is Ronnie Yorke who plays a skinhead bouncer, protecting the band whilst they start playing their first gigs.  Yorke not only looks the part, but he delivers a very animated performance of a thug who wanted nothing more than to look after everyone on stage. 

The Commitments is nothing without the Irish humour which is found throughout this production.  Under the Direction of Andrew Linnie, much of the dialogue is free flowing, however there was the odd occasion where some of the jokes/funny lines fell a little flat. The set, designed by Tim Blazdell consisted of a split two storey house depicting Jimmy’s home and this was pushed in and out of the space throughout the show.  There were many projections onto the set to signify which club the band were playing in.  The lighting by Jason Taylor really jumps off the stage with the use of numerous coloured spotlights and very bright flashes to signify the end of each act, which I found really effective

At the heart of this musical is the music and with such an amazing back catalogue of soul classics to chose from, it’s not hard to see why this production has people up on their feet singing along.  It is simply hit after hit after hit and a big crowd pleaser.

A night of sweet soul music at the Wolverhampton Grand.  Don’t wait until the midnight hour to get down to see The Commitments before the band stop playing on the 15th October. Tickets available here:

This production was reviewed on the 11th October 2022.

Written for Box Office Radio

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

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