The Commitments (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Thursday 12 January 2023

The Commitments (Tour
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 11th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

35 years after the publication of Roddy Doyle's popular novel The Commitments, the stage adaptation is making its way round the UK and Ireland to bring soul to the masses. Set in Dublin in the mid 1980s, it tells the story of a group of working class friends and acquaintances who are trying to start a soul band. Featuring classic songs from the 50s and 60s the musicals has got some real toe tapping moments but doesn't strike the right chord throughout.

The musical score is a mile a minute, with the likes of Tina Turner, The Beatles and Aretha Franklin filling it out, and whilst the performances are great, the structure and use of musical numbers leaves something to be desired. There's no variety; the songs are either performed as a rehearsal or performance and just fill a gap every so often. Instead of adding anything to the story, they are shoehorned in, therefore making the whole thing feel a bit clunky and surface level. The performances themselves are excellent and as a concert you'd be more than happy with what's on offer, but as a theatrical piece it doesn't flow in a particularly cohesive or captivating way. 

That being said, the highly talented cast do a great job of working with what they've been given. Namely, Ian McIntosh who's vocals are outstanding as Deco. He gives an arena worthy performance and is a joy to watch. The show especially excels in its ensemble moments, when the band come together to really show what they're made of.  Ciara Mackey showcases some lovely vocals as Imelda, Stuart Reid is fabulous as Joey, Connor Litten has some fantastic musical solos and Ronnie Yorke is hilariously over the top as Mickah.

Also impressive is Tim Blazdell's set, which reminiscent of Billy Elliot, uses various levels and moving elements to transform into multiple venues such as the bar and Jimmy's home, allowing some motion throughout and providing visual entertainment. Equally, Jason Taylor's lighting is extremely effective, especially towards the closing of the show.

Throughout the show there are moments that are really special but they are purely musical. Unfortunately the inconsistent and sort of abrupt script makes it very hard to connect to the characters and their plight in any way.  The stakes are never high enough and there's a distinct lack of fluidity throughout any of the plot line. There's some semi-romantic moments and some lowkey drama but nothing to really sink your teeth into and after an abrupt ending that seemingly comes out of nowhere, the show closes with a long encore that is one of the most enjoyable parts and makes a strong case for this to be purely a concert musical without bothering with a plot or script.

All in all, whilst it may not be everyones full cup of tea, there's absolutely an audience for this style of show and overall The Commitments is a feel-good celebration of soul that has you clapping along and feeling good. The strong performances make it worth a watch and whilst you won't be emotionally invested, it’s a harmless, musical way to wile away a few hours.

photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}