Esme Violet Anderson tells us what she thinks of the musical based on Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel…
I have never seen the movie or read the book, so The Commitments Musical intrigued me. I had no idea what to expect. My family and friends told me to expect laughs and amazing musical numbers, and they got that right. There was so much soulful music and funny jokes, but I wished for more of the plot-line.
The Commitments tells the story of the Irish band of the same name, explaining how they got together and how they fell apart. James Killeen played the band manager, Jimmy, who led the musical. Killeen portrayed a very believable, career-driven, and passionate manager who wanted to make a name for himself and his band, which he created with all Irish working-class people. How Killeen held himself and his character’s mannerisms were like Richard Madden’s portrayal of John Reid in the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, a not-so-likeable character.
The cast was made up of actor-musicians, which is incredibly common within theatre now, especially since Covid. It is always impressive to see this kind of show, where actors can highlight their other talents. It makes the performance feel more realistic instead of actors playing fake drums and guitars.
The music made this show, with constant tunes including ‘Think’, ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’, and ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’. The voices of Ian McIntosh (Deco) and Eve Kitchingham (Natalie) stuck out and helped bring all the musical numbers up to the next level. It was hard not to nod along whilst sitting in your seat. At the end, they played some of the best songs from throughout the performance, meaning the audience could get up on their feet and imagine what a Commitments live show might be like. It was lots of fun, and the audience helped bring the theatre alive.
My only problem was the story was not explored enough. It was more of an overview of the story rather than getting a look into the characters. It seems to be struggled with in many jukebox musicals. They want to get all the songs in but do not seem to focus on the story within them. The lack of a storyline becomes even more confusing when realising that the original writer of the book, Roddy Doyle, wrote the musical. I could not help but feel disengaged from the musical. I had hoped the story would pick up in the second half, but when the musical ended abruptly with the band breaking up and the lead characters sharing a random kiss, I could not help feeling disappointed.
For most of the audience, this musical was a fresh look at a favourite movie and a fun night out. For me, the music and actors really brought this show to life. I did not really “get it”, but maybe that is because I have never seen the movie. I will have to get it on my Christmas watch list!
By Esme Violet Anderson