Review: The Commitments

Brian Gilligan as Deco in The Commitments

Brian Gilligan as Deco in The Commitments

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SURELY it’s every understudy’s nightmare, or should that be dream? The curtain is up, the opening scenes in full flow, the lead man is belting out his big number, bouncing from stool, to table, to piano, and then he slips, hurts his leg, and can’t finish the performance.

The Playhouse, Greenside Place

* *

So it was on opening night of The Commitments when, minutes into the show, Brian Gilligan’s Deco left the stage at the end of one scene only to be replaced by Ben Morris in the role in the next.

Set in Dublin, at the end of 1985, The Commitments charts the rise and fall of Dublin’s hardest working soul band.

Jimmy Rabbitte plans his escape from McBirney’s Confectionary; he’ll put together a soul group and make his name in the music business.

Embarking on a series of auditions he brings together an unlikely band of misfits.

As Deco, the temperamental lead singer, Morris saves the day, ably supported by John Currivan, who gives a great turn as Billy, the quick-tempered drummer.

And let’s not forget Joey The Lips, the middle-aged bible-bashing lothario horn player, brought to life with equal measures of charm and smarm by Alex McMorran.

Completing the line-up, an accomplished array of musician/actors flesh out the band. Playing live, they’re a tight outfit and work well with Andrew Linnie, who anchors the piece as Jimmy, their manager.

Linnie also boasts a particularly strong rapport with ex-Corrie star Kevin Kennedy who plays his Da and relishes all the best one-liners.

Of course, every soul band needs backing singers and in The Commitmentettes the boys have just that.

Christine Tedder’s feisty Bernie is a standout.

Despite the talent on show, this production is a ramshackle affair that fails to gel and never captures the working-class desperation of Roddy Doyle’s original tale.

A lack of structure, chemistry and attention to detail - Jimmy’s Da is the only man I know who keeps open bottles of beer in his fridge - also lets it down. It’s lazy.

On an uninspired set, a muddled script unfolds. Dialogue is rushed and direction is so loose the piece feels like a youth theatre production.

For a musical with soul at its heart, there’s precious little passion until the finale mash-up when cast finally relax, performing classics such as River Deep, Mountain High with real gusto.

All of which leaves the impression that as actor/musicians, they’re far more comfortable as the latter.

Run ends Saturday