Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – until 4 February 2017
When this show was in the West End I saw it a number of times and so I was interested to see if it translates to a touring production. There are a number of changes notably the start and end, plus the overall staging. However, did any of these detract from my enjoyment of revisiting an old favourite? Absolutely not. In fact, I would say in certain aspects it even improved it.
Written in 1986 by Roddy Doyle, The Commitments tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced.
The Commitments is packed with more than 20 classic soul songs performed live on stage including: Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can’t Turn You Loose and more.
Andrew Linnie previously of the London cast, returns to the company to play Jimmy. The right mix of frustration, sheer determination and knowing talent when he sees it, Linnie plays Jimmy well. Reprising his West End role as Deco is Brian Gilligan whose impressive vocal skill, really showed in belting out the iconic numbers. Gilligan’s acting was also strong, particularly in the scene where his characters arrogance and lack of respect for his fellow musicians, had practically everyone queuing up to hit him, this really illustrated how good he was. I’m sure some of the audience would testify to wanting to join the queue.
If you are unfamiliar with either the book or the film you may be forgiven for thinking that this show is one-dimensional and just a platform for a concert-like show. However you’d be way off the mark. This is multilayered, a story about relationships, respect, working together and realising the dream. Demonstrated beautifully by, amongst others, Jimmy’s Da played by Kevin Kennedy. At first making a joke of his sons idea and ambition but later in the closing scene we see his pride and support for his son Jimmy (Linnie). All this is conveyed by very few lines and little movement but these often wry killer lines are delivered with such precision and timing, we are left under no illusion of his feelings.
Other notable performances were, Padraig Dooney, Alex McMorran, Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders. I’ve always enjoyed Caroline Jay Ranger’s direction which gives rowdy, seemingly un-choreographed scenes, which are actually the complete reverse, an air of authenticity. I easily felt transported back in time to the late 1980’s.
The finale as always got the whole audience to their feet and once again Gilligan wowed us with his immense frontman charismatic talent. The world’s hardest working band has definitely brought soul to Southampton this week!