If you need a bit of soul in your life, you are in luck as The Commitments the hardest working band in the world comes from the north side of Dublin into Milton Keynes this week. This heart-warming show, set in the mid 1980’s. tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working-class music fan, who transforms an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, which becomes the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. The trials and tribulations; the ups and downs of being in a band are all there. Different personalities clashing with each other; it’s not an easy job holding that all together.
Full confession time: I love this show. I have seen it several times on stage and adore the film too. I loved this set design and much preferred it to previous sets, especially as you can see Jimmy’s bedroom clearly no matter where you sit. The auditions are always fun – although if someone was singing badly, ‘Don’t you want me?’, I would just say ‘No I don’t’. One of my favourite scenes is the description of why they play soul and not jazz that the sax player is leaning towards. Brother Joey explains soul music has corners. Jazz is 'Wa@king music. It’s too intellectual; It is abstract and doesn’t say anything.' Totally right brother Joey.
This new show has many more songs than the film or previous incarnations of the show. It still has all your favourites that you expect to hear, but this new production showcases more than 20 soul classics, including Proud Mary, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Think, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out – I’ll Be There, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can't Turn You Loose and even a bit of the Rolling Stones Satisfaction done in a very soulful way.
Jimmy is played by James Killeen and does an outstanding job. He is on stage for most of the show and is trying so very hard to keep the band together but at every turn, he encounters another problem. I especially enjoyed James and Nigel’s interactions. Nigel Pivaro who plays Jimmy’s Da, says: “I am thrilled to be marking my return to the stage in this production of The Commitments. It's an iconic story.” Roddy Doyle added: “I'm delighted that The Commitments are coming back in 2022 & 2023 and I'm particularly looking forward to seeing how Nigel Pivaro tackles the part of Jimmy Rabbitte's Da.” Well Roddy I can say that Nigel smashes the part! He was almost unrecognizable as Terry Duckworth from Corrie. He was funny and his timing was on pointe. Fabulous performance from Nigel.
Deco is played by Ian Macintosh and is just tremendous in the role. He has a lovely voice and is great at delivering that ego that is needed for a front man. My only criticism is that he looks too fit to be as gross as Deco should be. There is no long greasy hair. He is not overweight and he even gets half naked in front of us. In fact, in his suit, he looks pretty tasty and then when he sings at you…wow. I loved his performance. All three commitment-ettes are magnificent. They all have their own distinctive personalities and can all sing beautifully. Imelda is played by Ciara Mackey; Natalie is played by Eve Kitchingman and Bernie is played by Sarah Gardiner. They make this band not only look good, but sound good too.
I have to mention Mackah who is the bouncer/drummer. Michah is played by Ronnie Yorke and I don’t know if Ronnie was ever a skinhead, but he sure can play the part well. He is not only scary but also funny. He really livened things up and was perfect in the role right down to his dancing.
The whole cast are exceptional and this is such a fun show – you will go home singing!
The Commitments is playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until 29 October 2022.