Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s novel The Commitments first hit the shelves back in 1987, 30 years on and the story has been turned into a BAFTA award-winning film and most recently a stage musical.
Set in 80s Ireland it follows Jimmy (Andrew Linnie), a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, and aims to make it the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. There’s a plethora of characters, from the cock-sure frontman Deco (Brian Gilligan) to the hot-headed drummer Billy (John Currivan), and over 20 soul classics performed including Proud Mary, River Deep, Mountain High and I Heard It Through The Grapevine.
Whilst on paper it sounds like entertainment to the max, in reality it falls short. The jokes seem tired and cheesy, the songs are hardly ever played in full and there’s a distinct lack of spark that the show so desperately needs.
Fans of the 1991 film, directed by Alan Parker, may be swayed by the nostalgia but the theatre version seems to lack the grit and wit of the original, despite being adapted for the stage by Doyle.
Former Coronation Street star Kevin Kennedy is back on home turf as The Commitments tour stops at the Palace Theatre and it’s clear there’s still an affection for him in Manchester years on since he played Curly Watts in the city’s famous soap. Many will forgive his dodgy Irish accent as he takes on the role of Jimmy’s cantankourous ‘Da’ but there’s no denying there’s some work needed for it not to stand out like a sore thumb in comparison to the other authentic voices on stage.
One actor who shines is Andrew Linnie in the lead role Jimmy. Linnie is engaging as the young and charistmatic music impersario, so too is Brian Gilligan as Deco who even manages to belt out the soul classics whilst eating a bag of chips!
Whilst The Commitments tries hard to be a juke-box musical it is unfortunately a vehicle which will never sit right in that role. Only when the show turns into a mini ‘Commitments concert’ after the curtain has fallen does it truly find its groove. Well-known hits such as Try A Little Tenderness and kareoke classic Mustang Sally finally have everyone up on their feet and dancing in the aisles, it’s just a shame they have only ten minutes before they have to ‘slow that mustang down’.
Runs at The Palace Theatre, Manchester until 8th April