Melding together the mix of talents and temperaments of a group of working-class Irish musicians to form a band played out with aplomb on the Bristol Hippodrome stage on Monday night, March 20.
The Commitments tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte (James Killeen), a young working-class music fan, who transforms an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, which becomes the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced.
From a variety of proletarian backgrounds – the butcher’s boy wearing a blood-splatted apron to the stressed medical student mid exams – there were verbal and physical punch-ups galore.
Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a number of wannabes time-wasters before finalising the members of his new band, which he names The Commitments.
Being a devotee of The Beatles wasn’t a prerequisite for admission to the band but being able to wow the bingo hall fans was a must.
The charismatic star of the show is undoubtedly Olivier Award nominee Ian McIntosh as Deco Cuffe who as lead singer and white Y-front wearer won over the audience with a pin-up smile and exuberant stage presence.
Other comedic episodes feature the randy old pro Joey the Lips (Stuart Reid) who screwed all the female vocalists before making a quick exit minus his mod scooter but with his ponytail and horn still intact.
While the picky Guardian critic Euan Ferguson described the production as ‘faultless’ he went on to pick holes, one being there was too much music.
And we have to agree, 20+ numbers in two hours was a lot but then every song had sweet sounding soul which we loved.
The atmospheric set was fronted by a series of rundown lock-up garages and a slice of a cramped redbrick terraced house in which Coronation Street legend Nigel Pivaro was very much at home sitting in an understairs alcove playing Da.
Ray Mickah (Ronnie Yorke) commanded attention as a hot-tempered skinhead bouncer who acts as the band’s security. His split personality makes him one of the more fully formed characters, his hard man with a soft spot for the group is delivered with great comic timing and makes him loveable.
This isn’t a disco, flashy light show more a menacing musicians in black (humour) which we loved.
Performed live on stage we knew all the words to Proud Mary, Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight, Knock On Wood, I Can't Turn You Loose and many more!
Humour kicks in as the band get to know each other and their instruments, grappling with inter-group differences as they muddle their way through early rehearsals for the band’s first gig.
Just as they improve and begin to get a name for themselves, they combust.The backing singers – great trio of Ciara Mackey as Imelda, Eve Kitchingman as Natalie, and Sarah Gardiner as Bernie - are more interested in the middle-aged horn playing legend, the singer has entered Eurovision, the drummer has walked out mid-gig and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career.
The Commitments star at Bristol Hippodrome
We have to add it was only in the finale that the pace was totally perfect.
The Commitments plays until Saturday, March 25.
Best theatre night out we have had for a while, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Tickets from £13 here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-commitments/bristol-hippodrome/
From left Sarah Gardiner, Ian McIntosh, Conor Litten, James Killeen, Ciara Mackey, Michael Mahony PHOTO: Ellie Kurttz
Stuart Reid, Ian McIntosh, Conor Litten PHOTO: Ellie Kurttz
Coronation Street's Nigel Pivaro and skinhead Ronnie Yorke
PHOTOS Ellie Kurttz