Director: Caroline Jay Ranger
Writer: Roddy Doyle
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
The West End smash hit The Commitments rolls into Southampton’s Mayflower to rapturous applause.
Based on the film of the same name, this show tells to story of a group of dysfunctional, disenchanted, Dubliners from the 1980s, who at worst dislike each other and at best are tolerant, but they are united through their love of soul music and their need to be part of a band.
With the opening number Proud Mary kick-starting the audience, it becomes a rollercoaster of songs from the great names of the Soul genre. The story is simple, the songs are some of the best, and the audience shimmies and claps along in their seats before the energy grows so much that, by the concert-style finale, they are all on their feet
Brian Gilligan savours every moment as the obnoxious Deco, who winds the group up but has a phenomenal voice that they cannot be without. Having performed this role during the show’s West End run, Gilligan is extremely comfortable as Deco and it is without a doubt that his performance is critical to the success of the show and its engagement with the audience. The fact he is so insufferable makes him slightly likeable and when he sings his voice does the rest. From I Heard it Through the Grapevine through to Mustang Sally Gilligan’s vocal range is staggering and the audience recognises and appreciates it with a variety of whoops and hollers.
Andrew Linnie is a determined Jimmy Rabbitte, trying his best in his naivety to hold the group together. Having played the role of sax-playing Dean when the show was in London, Linnie has moved into a trickier role in which to shine. Other than one very small moment he doesn’t have a song of his own. However, the humour and delivery of lines makes Linnie a likeable Jimmy.
Surrounded by an extremely strong cast, which includes Kevin Kennedy as Jimmy’s father, there is little to fault with the performances. Amy Penston is particularly astounding in her role as Natalie, as are the other two female group members, the love interest Imelda (Leah Penston) and Bernie (Christina Tedders).
Soutra Gilmour’s set is simple yet effective and gives a shabby, greyed-out feeling, perhaps one that reflects Dublin from the time the show is set. One criticism is with the sound, as there are times it was tricky to hear a couple of mics when the actors were talking.
This aside The Commitments is an uplifting, enjoyable evening out.
Runs until 4 Feb 2017 | Image: Johan Persson