Review: The Commitments, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Andy Howells reviews Roddy Doyle’s musical, The Commitments directed by Andrew Linnie, playing Wales Millennium Centre from May 22 to 23, 2023.

Raucously blurring the sounds of 60s Motown with Memphis Soul, The Commitments (playing Wales Millennium Centre until May 27) is sheer brilliance.

Set in the working-class streets of 1980s Dublin, Roddy Doyle’s classic musical follows the story of young music fan Jimmy Rabbitte, who’s dream is to start the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. After rescuing his friends Outspan and Derek from a fate worse than Top of the Pops, Jimmy auditions several local musicians and singers before finalising his new band: The Commitments. All seems well as Jimmy pulls the band together, until the green-eyed monster and egos collide with Guinness and musical differences.

While The Commitments is strong on drama, the action neatly dovetails into the omnipresent musical soundtrack. I particularly loved the way the band individually rehearse You Keep Me Hanging On and perfect their performance as Jimmy sets the wheels in motion for their promotion.

Tim Blazdell’s set neatly opens out into a studio rehearsal space for the band, while also neatly housing Jimmy and Da’s home, a council flat block and several night clubs. Although set in the 1980s, you get a distinct nostalgia of previous eras creeping through. Ever prominent is the music of the 1960s, but extra touches such as “Joey the Lips” red scooter, references to records and Da’s ringing telephone all give the production an aura of cosiness.

The icing on the cake is the ensemble cast who give dynamic acting portrayals alongside authentic music performances.

James Kileen brings Jimmy’s passion for music to life via comical clashes with his Elvis-loving Da’ (played to perfection by Coronation Street legend, Nigel Pivaro) to tightening the reins of the group when certain members begin detracting from the soul to drugs and other music genres.

Ben Morris blows the audience away as the egotistical Deco, a character that doesn’t realise his talent in the beginning but builds in confidence and attitude as the story develops. One can’t help warm to Morris’ portrayal as he oozes energy and charisma vocalising Papa Was a Rolling Stone, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, Land of 1000 Dances and Try a Little Tenderness. My personal favourite was his animated performance of Thin Line Between Love and Hate which was gentler in delivery, but just as startling as the rockier numbers.

Similarly, there were stunning vocal performances from Ciara Mackay as Imelda, Sarah Gardiner as Bernie and Maryann Lynch as Natalie on Think and River Deep Mountain High. Kudos to the ensemble performers for their unified musicianship on all numbers from Papa Was a Rolling Stone to Mustang Sally, all looked like they were having a blast on stage and that filtered through to the audience as we clapped along to various numbers.

Rockin’ with heart and soul, it would be a crime to stay in your seat and not join in the fun as The Commitments reaches its climax. If you only see one musical this summer, make it this one!

2 thoughts on “Review: The Commitments, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

  1. If you are expecting anything like the popular movie and sound track, please don’t t attend this show. It felt like a tribute to Tina turner (rip) and the blues brothers. They even changed the names ( Bernadette) etc. The singers were amazing, however they had no where the strong voices of the original cast. Overall very disappointed 😔

  2. Well very disappointed at the show not many songs from the album and the acting very amateur dramatics

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: