Theatre Review: The Commitments - Palace Theatre, London ✭✭✭✭✭

The Commitments
Palace Theatre, London

Wednesday 9th October 2013: In 1987, Roddy Doyle published his debut novel, The Commitments, about working class Dubliners who form a band, but not just any old band, a band with Soul! Jimmy aspires to manage the world's greatest band, with only one music in mind: soul. Disgusted with bands in Ireland, he assembles a soul band, holding auditions at his parents' home and assembles a group of musicians. With the help of Joey "The Lips" Fagan, the veteran musician of the band who has unlikely stories about meeting and working with famous musicians, Jimmy begins to whip the members into shape - coming together beautifully onstage, only to have the group fall apart in a clash of egos.

The film version of The Commitments won a handful of BAFTA Awards in the early '90's, along with Golden Globe nominations too. So how will a stage version of this fabulous book fair up? Read on.
The first thing that hits you when you the preset lighting scene flies out is the enormous and towering set designed by Soutra Gilmour. A block of flats that go high up into the grid, actors on all levels playing out scenes with lights hung from balconies and shining through all crevices. The lighting rig is prominent throughout, truss flying in to set the scene along with neons and the rest of the set.

But what makes this show it's own is the soundtrack, and the performance from the actors on stage. Killian Donnelly plays Deco, the lead singer of the band, and he has the most powerful soul voice I've heard in a while, he has the roughness and gravel of Joe Cocker but is not too over powering. Jessica Cervi, Stephanie McKeon and Sarah O'Connor play Bernie, Natalie and Imelda respectively, the backing singers who also have leads in various songs. They all sound fantastic, harmonies resonating throughout. One of my favourite characters of the night though has to be Mickah, played by Joe Woolmer - only one word to describe his performance, Genius! Go and see the show and you will see why.

When it comes to actor musicians, The Commitments is second to none for showcasing your skills, and Ben Fox as "The Lips" shows just how it is done. The horn section sounds great, arrangements are simple yet effective in the vast array of songs on show. In the Midnight Hour, Mr Pitiful, Mustang Sally and Try a Little Tenderness are all in the show, along with snippets from others such as Rudy A Message To You, Relax and Don't You Want Me to name just a few.

The Commitments really are "The Saviours of Soul", and this show has it all really. Comedy, energy, subtle touches, audience on their feet dancing, a great soundtrack, and all of this is backed up by a creative team who have done the West End proud. It will be pitiful if you don't grab a ticket and go and see this show. Top marks all round.

Five stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Listings Information
Performance times: Tuesday – Sunday at 7.30pm, Saturday & Sunday at 3.00pm
Venue: Palace Theatre, 109 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 8AY.
Tickets: £10 - £67.50 (from 8 October)

Twitter: @TheCommitments

Watch an interview with Killian Donnelly and Denis Grindel courtesy of