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7th June 2023

Review: The Commitments

The Commitments, a jukebox musical based on the film of the same name, is filled with great music, energetic acting, talented musicians, and great laughs
Review: The Commitments
Photo: ©EllieKurttz_

The Commitments follows the story of Jimmy Rabbitte (James Killeen) and his friends as he builds the soul band of his dreams in the heart of 1980s Dublin. Bringing an array of natural, learning and experienced musicians together, the band are forced to tolerate each others flaws in order to become successful, starting at bingo halls and moving into bigger venues. But can they put their differences aside in the pursuit of fame in the music industry?

Based on the 1991 movie that was in turn adapted from Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Commitments musical invites music fans into the 1980s after the rise of popular bands like U2, and the sexual and political significance of soul and motown music; “the music of the people”, particularly the Irish working class. With a range of generation defining songs like Mountain High, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Mustang Sally, and I Heard It Through The Grapevine the show boasts an unforgettable score.

The smash hit musical started rather casually with silent drinking and discussion as the audience took their seats, invoking this sense of involvement and community that the musical excels at. With a variety of jokes, innuendos and antics, the audience is then invited into a pub in Dublin with the drunken but vocally versatile Deco (Ben Morris), before later meeting our other main characters: Jimmy, his guitarist friends, and his father (Coronation Street’s Nigel Pivaro).

The stage effortlessly transforms from dingy bars and nightclubs with balconies and neon signs, to a two-floor house with moveable balcony pieces revealing a hidden bedroom, and a working front door used as a brilliant centrepiece for the newspaper auditions gag, and a mix of insane and wacky plucky wannabes in the first half.

Musically, the show is sheer perfection, with a brilliant range of 60s soul classics sung and performed by a range of talented artists, each with their own moments to shine and perform passionate solos, especially for the guitarists, pianist, saxophonist and trumpet player. Indeed, even the singing is superb with the commitment-ettes: Imelda (Ciara Mackey), Natalie (Eve Kitchingman), and Bernie (Sarah Gardiner) creating beautiful harmonies, recreating that classic soul sound, and belting powerful solos between Deco’s performances.

However, the story does occasionally suffer slightly, with the ending almost feeling a little anti-climatic as Deco’s character remains funny yet unlikable, and the rest of the band learn little from their squabbles in the sense of character arcs. Whilst it depicts a realistic part of friendships and trying to create a successful band, it was a little disheartening not to see full conclusions for each character, aside from the budding romance between Jimmy and Imelda on the back of Joey’s (Stuart Reid) bike.

Despite this, the standout singing performances from Ben Morris’ Deco and Eve Kitchingman’s Natalie, the passions and infectious excitement of James Killeen’s Jimmy, and the comedic and eccentric acting of madman and skinhead Mickah (Ronnie Yorke) made for a believable, fun and energetic show filled with 80s references and unforgettable 60s covers.

No wonder then, that the last few songs were met with a standing ovation as the whole crowd were encouraged to take the roles of the Commitments’ fictional crowd for one last show, and dance, clap, and sing along with the band (leading to one amazing moment where a woman in the crowd sung so loud she broke Deco as he burst into laughter and restarted the segment.

Overall, the night was filled with great music, energetic acting, talented musicians, and great laughs.


The Commitments runs at Opera House Manchester from June 5 to 10 and tours the UK and tours the UK until July 1.

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