"The Commitments" hits stage with tunes, Irish lilt but no horse

Thu Oct 10, 2013 6:05am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Novelist Roddy Doyle's "The Commitments" about young people starting up a soul band in the harsh times of 1980s Ireland has made it to the stage as a "jukebox" musical filled with tunes and Irish charm but shorn of most plot and political overtones.

After a half hour or so devoted to the efforts of Jimmy Rabbitte, played by Denis Grindel of Donegal making his West End debut, to form what he calls "the hardest working band in the world", the evening settles down into almost a non-stop tribute to the Motown catalogue.

The hits belted out by the mostly young, energetic and largely Irish cast for the opening in London on Tuesday night include Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", the Four Tops' "Reach Out", Aretha Franklin's "Think", the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally".

Veteran theatre hand Jamie Lloyd directed from the musical's book, which Doyle adapted from his 1987 novel of the same name.

Predictably absent is the famous "horse in the lift" scene from Alan Parker's 1991 film adaptation in which a boy leads a steed into the lift of a Dublin housing estate because "the stairs will kill 'im".

"We didn't get the horse in the lift, we did auditions but no one was impressed," Killian Donnelly, who plays the band's charismatic but short-tempered lead singer Deco, joked at the opening-night party held in an Irish-themed London pub.

"We had a three-legged donkey at one point but it wasn't working," said Donnelly, who came to "The Commitments" from the role of Tony in the West End hit "Billy Elliot".

The performance of Donnelly, from County Meath, as the band's kingpin whose departure after a fight eventually leads to its collapse pretty much brought down the opening-night house.   Continued...