The Commitments Review

May 3, 2017 by Claire Cosgrove

I remember the film, released back in the early 1990s. A BAFTA award winning cult classic, directed by the legendary Alan Parker. I am pretty sure I had the CD soundtrack in my University days, along with half the campus, warbling along to “Mustang Sally” at many a drunken party.

Direct from a phenomenally successful, record breaking run in London’s West End, The Commitments has taken up a week’s residence at The Cliff’s Pavilion in Southend. With only hazy memories of the original film, I was excited about my trip down memory lane.

As we took our seats, you could just make out a Dublin pub interior where two guys sat, supping their pints. A nice touch that followed throughout the the show. Brilliantly staged, the set was moved swiftly and seamlessly around by a team of stage hands and the story travelled along with it.

And the story? Well, The Commitments follows Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians and friends into an amazing live act. It’s fresh and funny, as we see the band get to know each other and their instruments, and take on early rehearsals for their first gig. Just as they improve and begin to make a name for themselves they combust. The backing singers are all getting off with the middle aged horn legend, the singer has entered Eurovision and the saxophone player has dangerous leaning towards a jazz career.

If you are a musical theatre phobe but love music, this could be the show for you. Rather than the characters bursting into spontaneous song whilst pontificating their dilemmas, the music is simply the band, playing their beloved soul music. The cast are a raw talent, much like the characters they are depicting, and play with more passion and energy than I have seen for a long time. Brian Gilligan, as Deco, was particularly brilliant. He appeared to give over his last ounce of energy in the final act, throwing his hands up at the end as if to say ‘I have no more to give to you’. It was phenomenal. How on earth he can give that level of performance every night is beyond me. Andrew Linnie was very charming as Jimmy. He stitched the show together with effortless skill, shining in the show despite not taking a spotlight role in the band itself. In fact, all the cast from Joey the Lips to Billy the bullish drummer, to the Commitmentettes, gave a star performance.

It packs in over 20 soul classics, all performed live on stage including: 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 … I could go on.

It was fabulous fun and I left feeling rather elated. I think this show has something for everyone. A great night out with so much to enjoy. On at The Cliff’s until Saturday 6th May.