Roddy Doyle's 'The Commitments,' A Raucous West End Debut Success

The Commitments has premiered in London's West End, bringing a whirlwind of musical joy and vibrant staging to the nation's capital. Based on the 1987 novel by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, the story follows a group of unemployed youths who form a soul band, named The Commitments.


Directed by Jamie Lloyd ('The Hothouse'), the play takes a look at the troubles of Irish youngsters in the 80s as well as celebrating great soul music with songs including 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine.' 'In The Midnight Hour' and 'Satisfaction.'

Killian Donnelly ('Les Misérables,' 'Billy Elliot') is the star of the show, playing the "memorably obnoxious" Deco and The Commitments' lead singer. The Telegraph adores Donnelly's lead performance, saying the actor "has a superbly powerful and soulful voice, and when he tears into such classics as I Can't Turn You Loose, Mustang Sally and perhaps the greatest of all soul songs, Otis Redding's Try a Little Tenderness, the shivers race down the spine."

Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle At A Book Launch This Year.

The Telegraph was also outspoken in its praise for the production, describing the play as wonderfully funny and touching" with "superb design," adding that "the exhilaration of making music is beautifully caught." However, reviewer Charles Spencer gripes that he found the musical's "lip-quivering sensitivity both wet and irksome" yet regardless "this hugely enjoyable show touches the sublime."

The Guardian's Lyn Gardner is nowhere near as kind, however. The basic staging of the play is criticised ("the embalmed grandeur of the Palace theatre is so totally at odds with the show's contrived down-at-heel aesthetic") and any artistry goes overhead with the damning "this laddish evening is little more than We Will Rock You for soul fans."

Jamie Lloyd
Jamie Lloyd Directs The Staged Version Of 'The Commitments.'

Wheareas London Theatre Direct focusses on the play's talented cast when looking for aspects to praise. Though Andrew Tomlins notes that "The storyline is a little weak in places and the show relies on its score," he adds that "A considerable amount of cast members are making their West End debuts in The Commitments which adds a certain rawness to the lively, excitable atmosphere."

It seems as though The Commitments was never going to be a perfect production when the novel and 1991 movie have already accomplished so much. However, for a light-hearted take on some of Ireland's darker times as well as toe-tapping musical numbers, The Commitments is sure to draw enthusiastic crowds night after night.


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