Cast announced for world premiere of Roddy Doyle's THE COMMITMENTS at Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue



It’s time to get up get on up. Probably the greatest work ever written about a North Dublin Soul band, The Commitments, is now ready to announce the full line up of not only the band but manager, roadies, fans and parents.

As in the plot itself The Commitments will introduce an array of fresh, young and exciting talent, alongside established musical theatre performers. The producers felt it was important to recruit and unleash a cast that is as hungry and in some cases raw as the characters they are playing. Not only are some of the cast making their West End debuts but others who have come through the walk-up audition process are making their professional acting debuts. Under the guidance of hit West End director Jamie Lloyd, The Commitments will be bringing Roddy Doyle’s brilliant story to life from 8 October (with previews from 21 September).

The lead role of Jimmy Rabbitte, the band’s manager, is to be played by West End debutant Denis Grindel, who is still finishing his stage school dissertation. Having completed a law degree, Denis was about to sign his contract when he took a late audition for drama school, and won a place. Just one year on, he’s bringing the affable Jimmy to life on the West End stage. Now that’s soul.
The arrogant but gifted lead singer of The Commitments is Deco, to be played by popular stage actor Killian Donnelly, who will be rocking to a very different beat to the roles he played in Phantom of the Opera and in both the film and stage production of Les Miserables. Killian has waited his whole life to play this role, having constantly been told by his mum that he was too young to watch or read The Commitments, when growing up in Dublin.

The Commitmentettes, Dublin’s answer to The Supremes, are to be played by three young Dublin girls, all making their West End debuts in lead roles – Sarah O’Connor, Stephanie McKeon and Jessica Cervi.
Playing the senior musician in the group, the spiritually inspired trumpet player extraordinaire, Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, is the talented and well versed Ben Fox. Joey is the band’s original soul man and has quite a way with the ladies. They don’t call him ‘The Lips’ for nothing. Ben counts Backbeat and The Midnight Hour among his many credits. Playing Jimmy Rabbitte’s father is established actor Sean Kearns who has starred in Alan Parker’s film Angela’s Ashes and the BBC’s Ballykissangel.

The Commitments has been adapted for the stage by Booker Prize-winning Doyle, from his original novel.  It will be directed by the award-winning Jamie Lloyd, who recently directed the critically acclaimed Macbeth, and will be packed with classic soul songs including Think by Aretha Franklin, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones, Papa Was A Rolling Stone by The Temptations, Night Train by James Brown, In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett and Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding.
Roddy Doyle says: “I've been sitting in rehearsals, watching these terrific young people becoming The Commitments. I'm hearing them sing; I'm watching them play their instruments – and it all makes me very happy and excited. What amuses me most is the fact that only one of them was born when I wrote the novel.”
The Commitments is 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 show follows the journey of two members of a frustrated synthesiser band – the opening scene has them playing but ignored in a shop window - who turn to Jimmy, the local music expert, for help.
Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a number of wannabes before finalising the new line-up who he names The Commitments. The humour kicks in as the band get to know each other and their instruments, and proceed through early rehearsals to their first gig. Just as they improve and begin to get a name for themselves they combust. The backing singers are all getting off with the middle aged trumpet legend, the singer has entered Eurovision and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career.

Listings Information
Previews: 21 September – 7 October
Press Night: 8 October at 7pm
Performance times: Tuesday – Sunday at 7.30pm, Saturday & Sunday at 3.00pm
(Preview on Monday 7 Oct at 7.30pm, no performance on Thursday 10 October)
Venue: Palace Theatre, 109 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 8AY.
Tickets: £5 - £33.75 (Previews) £10 - £67.50 (from 8 October)
Box Office: 0844 412 4656
Twitter: @TheCommitments

Denis Grindel – Jimmy Rabbitte
Denis, 22, is playing Jimmy Rabbitte, the visionary young music fanatic who shapes a group of unlikely amateur musicians into one of Dublin’s finest live bands. It could all have been so different for Denis though, who having completed a Law degree in 2012, almost accepted a job in the marketing department of a top London retailer, until he took a very late audition for Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He won his place and turned his back on his marketing career, and aren’t we glad he did. The Commitments marks a West End debut for Denis, and the start of what promises to be a very long, illustrious career. Denis is currently finishing his drama school dissertation when he’s not rehearsing for The Commitments, or sleeping.

Killian Donnelly – Deco
Killian, 29, is practically a West End veteran amongst this young cast. He plays Deco, the lead singer we all love to hate. Hailing from Dublin too, he spent a childhood desperate to read The Commitments, but being told he’d have to wait till he was older. Fast forward a few years, Killian has forged an impressive career for himself, and includes Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera in the West End, and The Tudors on the BBC among his credits. They say good things come to those who wait, and two years after his first workshop, Killian is our front man. He’s just about old enough to read the book, too.

Sarah O’Connor – Imelda
Sarah, 22, plays Commitmentette, Imelda. Growing up in Lucan in Dublin, Sarah was practically brought up with The Commitments as her parents were fans of both the book and film. So when she heard that it was being turned into a West End show, she made sure her agent got her an audition. Sarah was a finalist on RTE’S Fame – The Musical, where she appeared alongside fellow cast member Jessica Cervi.

Stephanie McKeon – Natalie
Stephanie, 26, also plays a Commitmentette - Natalie. Stephanie’s has very early memories of The Commitments – she was three years of age when the film was being shot, just streets away from the family home. A North Dubliner, Stephanie is beaming at the thought of taking to the stage as a Commitmentette, a West End debut beyond her childhood dreams. This also represents a West End debut for Stephanie, but she includes a number of productions at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin among her credits.

Jessica Cervi – Bernie
Jessica, 22, plays our final Commitmentette, Bernie. Jessica heard about the production two years ago when sat in the back of a cab in Dublin. She never thought she would get the part, but here she is. After winning the lead role in Fame in 2010 by winning Fame - The Musical, a hit TV show in Ireland similar to BBC’s Over The Rainbow, the show went on tour in Ireland.  She then took the big step to move to London to study at The Royal Academy of Music in 2011.

Ben Fox – Joey ‘The Lips’
Ben, 49, plays our born again Christian and trumpet wizard, Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan. London born Ben is the eldest member of the cast and is ready revelling in the role. Joey, known as ‘The Lips’ for more reasons than just his trumpet expertise, all three of the girls fall for his charms at one stage or another. Ben cites The Commitments as a dream job for him. Credits to Ben’s name include Backbeat and The Midnight Hour, as well as appearing in TV shows such as Holby City, Casualty and Men Behaving Badly.

Mark Dugdale – Derek
Mark, 32, plays Derek, the second half of the rhythm section, the true heart of the band. Mark spent a childhood trying to watch The Commitments with his Dad, and being told to turn it off by his Mum – so he knew he was really on to something. Mark took part in The Commitments workshop a few years back and has since waited patiently for the show to come to fruition. He used his time well though, appearing in We Will Rock You, Les Miserables and Chicago, and learning the bass guitar as well.

Brian Gilligan – Billy
Brian, 26, plays the evermore disgruntled Billy, the drummer who reaches breaking point with our front man. Growing up, Brian was enthralled by the way Roddy captured North Dublin in all of his work so he is elated to be a part of the production. If Billy is frustrated, Brian is anything but. Brian’s credits include starring in The Wizard of Oz and Oklahoma.

Andrew Linnie – Dean
Andrew, 22, plays Dean, who takes to the saxophone like a duck to water. So much so, in fact, Dean begins to stray from the sometimes rhythmic confines of Soul, towards the dreaded, unspeakable…Jazz. Andrew’s musical talent is even more enhanced than Dean’s, and has featured regularly throughout his short career. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London, The Commitments represents Andrew’s West End debut.

Joe Woolmer – Mickah
Joe, 27, plays Mickah, the bouncer turn drummer who had the band’s back from the word go. Having been dragged kicking and screaming by his mum all the way to becoming a National Ballroom Dancing Champion when he was 12-years-old, Joe decided lycra and sequins weren’t for him. He has played the drums for years and has always been waiting for an audience to play in front of, an audience his punk band couldn’t deliver. Joe has performed in The Blue Man Group in New York and Las Vegas and has perfected a Dublin accent with thanks to his girlfriend, Orla.

Matthew Wycliffe – Outspan
Matthew, 30, appears as Outspan, on lead guitar. Matthew has always been a fan of The Commitments and had longed for the day it was turned into a show. Matthew has great experience of performing and has been in a band as long as he can remember, but none of them could hold a candle to the saviours of soul. Matthew trained as an actor at drama school in 2006 and has gone on to star in Jersey Boys, Carnaby Street The Musical and played the role of Buddy in Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, which travelled from the West End to Texas and Canada.

Barnaby Southgate – James
Barnaby plays James, on piano. Barnaby boasts not only great acting talent, but musical talent too, playing and composing, making him perfect to take to the keys in The Commitments. His theatre credits include Carmen at the Leicester Square Theatre and his works as a musician and composer a musician and composer include him performing as resident at The Royal Festival Hall, and composing scores for BBC's Songs of Praise and See Hear.

Padraig Dooney – Ensemble
Padraig, 20, is from the North side of Dublin, not far from ‘Barrytown’ the fictional North-side area in which our story is set. He was told about The Commitments open auditions in Dublin by a friend the day before they took place. He rushed out and bought the book and stayed up all night reading it, joined the queue at auditions the following morning. The rest is history. Padraig is the only member of the cast to have come through the very first round of auditions. He’s packed a bag and moved out of his family home, and finds himself in the cast of a major West End show, with just a few minor Irish stage credits and a bag full of talent to his name.
*Please note this is not the full cast
Creative Team
Writer - Roddy Doyle
Director - Jamie Lloyd
Producer – The Commitments London
Music Supervisor - Alan Williams
Designer - Soutra Gilmour
Lighting - Jon Clark
Choreographer - Ann Yee

Sound - Rory Madden