The Commitments – Review – Leeds Grand
By Dan Roach, December 2016
The Commitments arrives at Leeds Grand Theatre, bringing a touch of Irish comedy and an abundance of soul to the heart of the city.
Written in 1986 by Roddy Doyle and starring former Coronation Street actor Kevin Kennedy, The Commitments tells the story of young Dublin working class teenagers on a quest for stardom as they bring soul music to the city’s stages.
Jimmy (Andrew Linnie) places an advert in a music paper and auditions a number of curious characters until finally forming his band; ‘The Commitments’. Linnie has fantastic stage presence and has the audience hooked with his humour from the moment he sets foot on stage. The relationship with his father, known as Jimmy’s Da (Kevin Kennedy), is particularly entertaining throughout the show. The two exchange witty yet, at times, touching remarks.
“She hits notes I didn’t even realise existed”
The lead singer Deco (Brian Gilligan) lights up the stage with a truly soulful voice, although his character at times can be very frustrating. Arriving late for rehearsals and the band’s first gig, his lacklustre attitude plays out so well on stage it palpably frustrates the audience. His voice is powerful, gritty, yet full of heart. The classic ‘Mustang Sally’ has the audience on their feet – a first I’ve ever seen during a stage show.
The Commitmentettes, three young women who act as backing singers are really at the core of the show. They each bring flair and sass to proceedings, in particular Imelda (Leah Penston) who, during some songs, hits notes I didn’t even realise existed!
What is truly exceptional about this play is that the actors are playing music live throughout the show. One particular and exceptional performance is Dean (Padraig Dooney) on saxophone. A comical character that can barely play a note when auditioning for the band, but continually improves as time goes on. His jazz influences cause rifts with other band members, however, the music he performs throughout is captivating.
“It will thoroughly entertain you for an evening”
As the story develops the band are introduced to a record label. And that’s where things go a little pear-shaped. The story does seem to end quite suddenly. It left me wondering if there was more to come. And for once, there really is!
The show turns into a concert, with the cast coming back on stage and performing some classic soul hits such as ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ and a reprise of ‘Mustang Sally’. The whole of Leeds Grand Theatre is up dancing and singing.
Even if you haven’t read the original novel, The Commitments will thoroughly entertain you for an evening. You will leave feeling happier than when you arrived. What more can you ask?