Phil McInyre Entertainments Limited
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Novelist Roddy Doyle dreamed up The Commitments, the shortest-lived hit band to come out of Ireland—a band that only sang soul covers under the management of the great Jimmy Rabbitte. It was quickly snapped up as a box office hit movie, but Doyle turned down offers to create a musical until he himself adapted the book in 2013. Thank goodness for that!
Pop/rock musicals abound—We Will Rock You, The Who’s Tommy, The Buddy Holly Story and Jersey Boys to name a few. As Doyle's show is fiction, it it bypasses the narrative difficulties other band bio-musicals run into, and as a soul cover band the musical can weave in the best hits from multiple artists.
Caroline Jay Ranger's direction brings out the comedy, and the cast's excellent comic timing delivers the goods. Irish-accented obscenities are just funnier than delivery in Queen's English. Jay Ranger keeps the energy onstage fizzing—The Commitments are outstanding when performing but cannot stop bickering when the music stops. The direction and choreography ensures each character seems like an individual—each has their own personality.
With spectacular musical delivery from the entire cast, this is a show that doesn’t hold back with renditions of twenty-four hit songs. It’s hard to select favourites but Imelda’s (Leah Penston) rendition of "Think" is exceptional and I’ve had an earworm of "I Heard it through the Grapevine" for the last 24 hours.
Evangelical band leader Jimmy (Andrew Linnie) is a smooth operator, his zeal to bring soul music to the working class of Ireland infectious. Lead singer Deco (Brian Gilligan) gives blinding renditions throughout, whilst combining just the right balance of bolshie arrogance and awkward outsider.
A special mention has to be given to the acting of Sam Fordham appearing as Mikah, the band’s security skinhead. When looking through the programme, picking out Fordham is almost impossible—transformed from the curly-haired, smiling headshot into into an overly aggressive, gangly-limbed comic genius.
This cast was truly deserving of their ecstatic standing ovation—providing an exceptional evening's entertainment. Get a ticket a ticket before soul leaves Woking.
Reviewer: Louise Lewis