The Commitments

Theatre, Musicals
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan Persson'The Commitments'
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan Persson'The Commitments'
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan Persson'The Commitments'
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan Persson'The Commitments'
THE COMMITMENTS  (© Johan Persson)
© Johan Persson'The Commitments'

Brian Gilligan takes over as lead role Deco, John Currivan now stars as Billy Mooney and Sam Fordham is Mickah.

In these straitened times, nothing gets bums on West End seats like a stage adaptation of a blockbuster film or novel. And this show, of course, comes trailing both: Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel about a motley group of working-class Irish lads and lasses who form a raucous soul band; and Alan Parker’s 1991 mega-hit film version.

Among the growing crop of film-to-stage adaptations, there are many that smack of cynicism (stand up, ‘The Bodyguard’). No such criticism can be levelled here. This is a handsome production, assembled by a talented team: Doyle wrote the stage adaptation, and designer Soutra Gilmour is one of the best in the business − her set does a brilliant job of rooting the show in 1980s working-class Dublin, with dingy launderettes and garage rehearsal rooms sliding on and off stage beneath an estate’s looming façade.

Director Jamie Lloyd − fresh from acclaimed productions of ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Pride’− runs the show at a sparky pace, with the action often taking place in several areas of the stage at once. It’s all impressively slick, and the cast are fantastic − it’s impossible not to get swept up in their high-energy renditions of soul classics, from ‘Knock on Wood’ to ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.

But ultimately, that’s really all this show has: a succession of great soul numbers, held together by the flimsiest of plots. As trumpeter Joey (Ben Fox) points out, “Soul is the rhythm of the people” − and part of the appeal of Doyle’s novel lay in translating that rhythm from oppressed, black America to working-class, white Ireland. But the show barely engages with the political significance of its setting, and the characters are little more than sketches. The result is a highly enjoyable crowd-pleaser − but it could have been so much more.

By Laura Barnett


Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:10
  • 4 star:16
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:7
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1 of 1 found helpful

I had no expectation for this show. I knew it would have modern music and that's it. I was pleasantly surprised to see an all Irish cast in this Irish story about a band that's a good as they are volatile. The male lead singer looked very natural and appeared to really enjoy himself which made his performance seem effortless. Rock solid. They rest of the band didn't miss a note or beat. Very impressive too. I recommend this show to everyone.

1 of 1 found helpful

We came to London especially to see The Commitments on 29th October and we were not disappointed! The show is essentially a play with music. The play is very true to the original Roddy Doyle book, which "is" different from the movie, in case you go expecting to see a live version of the movie. The imposing tower block set really captures the grim reality of 1980's working class Dublin and the various set locations are very effective. The cast work their asses off during the first half to give you a background to each character and the idea of how a rough band progresses from its first dodgy rehearsal to its first public performance. From a music perspective, the majority of the cast play instruments in the band but don't actually sing, the singing sits on the shoulders of Killian Donnelly (awesome!) who plays Deco and the three girls, Natalie, Bernie and Imelda. The singing is incredible, I don't know how they manage to do 8 shows a week with such energy, they will have you dancing in the aisles by the final number! They certainly do not lip sync as another reviewer suggested, but I suppose that's a compliment to the outstanding vocals of the lead singers. If I had to be critical I would drop a few 'F's from the dialogue here and there, as you become immune to them after a while and this detracts from the intended effect (humour or emphasis on a particular subject) and maybe Jimmy could tone down the volume at times when he isn't the MC. Don't come expecting Phantom or Candide, its not that type of musical, it's not politically correct (it's 1980's working class Dublin!) so go with an open mind if you are up for the craic and you will have a great night out! Don't go if you are easily offended, maybe a Disney musical would be a better choice for you, it may not be your cup of tea (it's really more 'Pint of Beer' than 'Cup of Tea').


If you haven't yet seen this, you're a fool! It is one of the best musicals in the West End - fun, catchy songs, incredible singing and acting and the staging is fantastic.

I really enjoyed this show and sung the songs for weeks after! Thoroughly recommend getting a group together and watching this show!

Staff Writer

Great music, outstanding singing performances, a feel great show especially on a sunday evening! totally worth it!

We mistakenly booked Balcony seats the tickets advise of RV (restricted view) should have advised No View!! We did not stay to watch the show! I don't know how the theatre gets away with selling tickets on those seats should not be allowed.

WARNING! I'm English and my wife is from the Philippines but has a masters from King's College London and neither of us could understand the majority of the dialogue. If English is not your first language I don't think you have a chance in following what are the strongest Irish accents I've ever heard even though I've lived and worked in Dublin. 

As for the show, the first half is a band forming and band practice and has all the entertainment value of watching the first few very poor rehearsals of a new band. There is little or no decent comedy and after watching "Book of Mormon," which is hilarious, the previous night the flat gags were just embarrassing. 

I loved the film and loved the music in the film, but after the first half we left as the show was just so flat, boring and relentlessly DULL!

The Commitments was a talented, cohesive ensemble of pure energy. What started out slightly slow moving errupted into a fabulous cacophony of lyrics and music of some of the greatest songs of our time. The mostly Irish cast brought a realistic approach to this rag tag group of Dublin dreamers. One does not have to be familiar with the book, movie or even all the songs to enjoy this live music extravaganza. The cast should all be commended for their "commitment" to this wonderful show.

Very enjoyable show, and some fantastic voices. I liked the film, and the theatre production certainly doesn't disappoint. Treated my mum and girlfriend to tickets, and they loved it too, am very pleased.

Great show, lots of humour and some great soul songs performed by excellent singers, would highly recommend

Just as an update to some of the other reviews you can read below - I understand the show a few months ago had a lot more swearing, and perhaps fewer good songs. Having just seen it January 2014, there's very little strong language and plenty of belting soul numbers, and it's extremely good fun, even if the plot remains a little thin!

Great fun, very enjoyable. The cast have so much energy & talent which results in a really vibrant show. If it ever comes to Chichester (our local theatre) we will definitely go to see it again.

Killian Donnelly's singing makes your hairs stand on end!! Every memeber of the cast give 110% and the audience are on their feet, guaranteed, every performance.

So disappointed with the The Commitments show, Waited until the end of the show to hear a song from the film, such a shame. It's like going to see Mama Mia with no Abba songs!

Absolutely fantastic! Loved it!! The set, cast and especially the music was brilliant and I left on a high! If you want a party, then go see this. Well worth the money and more!

Not being a massive soul fan and never having seen the film I had real reservations about going to see this show. What other reviewers say is true - the plot is thin and sometimes confusing and you cannot help but feel that the relationships could have stood being given a greater part of the script. Killian Donnelly gave it his all as Decco although some of the other performances were lukewarm at best, but the music was worth going to see it for.

Great show and great music! Every single person was on their feet dancing for the last 2 songs. Find it hilarious that a previous reviewer walked out as a result of profanity - a show about working class Dubliners isn't going to be filled with 'crikey' and 'fiddlesticks'. Some people should lighten up!!

Absolutely amazing! I had a really good time. The cast was brilliant, especially Killian Donnelly.

Very enjoyable show. I did miss some of the songs from the film such as Hard to Handle and Destination Anywhere. A lively couple of hours.

Wish we hadn'nt bothered ! Went to London for the weekend and knew there arent may shows on a Sunday evening but decided to go see The Commitments. Several people told me the film was brilliant..........hope they dont go to the show. I'm not prudish in the least but the first half of the show was all shouting with constant use of the f......word. Used several times by probably nearly everyone who spoke on the set. Very little "soul" music in the first half and a bit more towards the end of the show. The lead singer had a brilliant voice but it was too little too late. The previous Wednesday I, was fortunate enough to see "Let It Be" at The Savoy Theatre and what a difference, the audience were up and dancing in the first half ! More like it ! So if you want to see a "good" show I would definately give "the Commitments" a MISS !

What a disappointment. Isn't this supposed to be a celebration of Soul Music? Well opportunity lost I am afraid. I won't recommend this show to any of my friends. It is not fair to extract West End prices on the promise of something exciting and enjoyable. The only enjoyable bit for me that redeemed this show was the last 15 minutes. THere was no encore. I think a lot of the audience were ready to leave anyway. The constant use of the "F" word is unecessary and because of this it is not a family show. Not enough songs, really disappointing that. I felt sorry for the cast, who were obviously consummate musicians and could have had us all dancing in the aisles as they say.

For the first 25 minutes a group of Irish people tell each other to "F" off as they meander through a paper-thin plot. Fortunately towards the end of the first half music starts to emerge. After the interval the plot is fortunately forsaken and by the time The Commitments say "Hello London" we are firmly in gig territory. Great voices, sublime soul music and a red hot band we never get to see. If you want theatre, go down the road. If you want to party this is a good bet (after 25 mins)

For 25 minutes a group of Irish people tell each other to Fuck Off as they struggle with a paper-thin plot. Fortunately by the end of the act some music is staring to emerge. After the interval the plot is fortunately forsaken and by the time The Commitments say "Hello London" the evening is in full gig mode. Astonishingly good voices, sublime music and a red hot band we never see. If you want theatre, go down the road. If you want to party , this show delivers (after 25 minutes)

Some Irish guys tell each other to fuck off as they work their way through a paper-thin plot in the tedious first act. Fortunately the second act morphs into a gig , and by the time The Commitments say "Good Evening London" the audience are invited to dance and clap along to some of the best soul sounds of all time. The actors and musicians work hard to deliver a great night out - and for me it worked. Not as good as the movie but much better than some of the other jukebox musicals in town. If they had passed around a few beers and the band played on, I would have stayed all night.

I saw the musical on 5 Oct and was very disappointed. It just keeps the audience waiting for good music for too long. Best thing were the two songs at the end. Would have expected music like this much earlier. I must admit that I was tempted to leave after the first half of the show.

The Commitments is one of my all time favourite films, this musical was a total disappointment. Can’t comment on the second half as I walked out at the interval. The cast I am sure have never seen the film, It seemed to me to totally to miss the point. Will have to watch the DVD again this weekend to try and erase it from my memory.

I saw a preview last night (Oct 2nd) and I was pretty disappointed. I think it just doesn't work because it isn't a true musical. In the first half, I was frustrated because we only get snatches of songs, which were generally perforated by some of the least funny dialogue I have heard in years. The second half was a lot better as it contained much more music, but the characters seemed to act without any real motivation - for example it was never really clear why the first drummer, "Animal", hated Decco so much. And the potential romance between Jimmy and Imelda seemed to spring out of nowhere at the end. For the finale, they break down the fourth wall and perform as a band to the audience. I completely agree that this was the right thing to do, but it showed that aside from Decco, the band were good performers but not great ones. In the West-End we have been spoilt by some of the greatest performers of all time - but unfortunately most of this cast wouldn't be counted among them. Don't get me wrong, I loved their energy and vibrancy and for the most part of the show when they are in a pub band they are perfectly cast. But as a band for a West-End show, they are not really up to it. However, they will probably improve over time, so maybe in a few months this part of the show will be better. I also thought that they should have ended on a much more upbeat tune than "Try a little Tenderness" to make sure the audience went home with a song spinning round in their heads. The dialogue was atrocious and the direction particularly lack-lustre. All the dialogue scenes seemed very stilted and under-rehearsed and once or twice I wasn't sure if meaningless pauses were due to poor direction or the actors had forgotten their lines. They really need to work on the non-musical parts of the play which I seriously hope they'll do before opening night. The characters lacked any motivation for their actions and the darkness that made the original film balance so well against the comedy was completely missing. With a lot more work there could be a really good show here - it needs to be a lot tighter, rewrite the painfully unfunny dialogue and big up the music a bit more - and have a really big foot stomping production number at the end.

I thought it was fantastic. If you want to watch the film then buy the DVD - this was a theatrical experience that captured the energy and rawness of 80s Dublin. My wife also said she didn't understand why they chose 'Satisfaction' to which I smugly replied: 'Maybe it was an homage to the Otis Redding version!' Great music, energetic cast and the audience had the time of their lives.

Just seen the play, I was sickened by the racist mantra and ranting of the lead in the first part of the play. It was unnecessary and ruined the show for me. Did the writers get the laughs they desired?? A few giggles from those narrow minded people who think that the use of the word nigger (repeatedly) is appropriate. Shame on you Jamie Lloyd and co. it was a little hard to get into he swing of the show after that so no comment in the rest if it. Oh and sticking with the theme of this review. It says mild adult humor, the family with the child behind be might disagree! Palace theatre is change that to strong swearing just to warn other ! Thanks

Just got back after seeing the Commitments tonight (Saturday 28/09/2013) and thought it was great. It is not true to the film but I don't believe that it necessarily should - Roddy Doyle was fully involved in this and if he decided that that to make it work the he needed to shift everything to one side a little then that is good enough for me. The show, like the movie, progressed from watching a group of soul wanabees progress from the shoddy to the brilliant. The sets are great and I felt that the young cast replicated the rawness of the original movie. Yes, some songs were different and when the Stones 'Satisfaction' appeared I was surprised. but lets not forget that once upon a time (still are?) the Stones were a brilliant R & B band. A real feel good show with some good funny moments. The show will evolve and get even better. The finale had everyone going. Well done to the Cast!

Absolutely blown away. The first two people Rating this are hung up on a film. This is not a film it's its own stand alone piece! Wow!

My husband and I went to see The Commitments and thought it was brilliant. In spite of other peoples comments tonight's show was very well received by the audience and there was massive applause at the end. Yes, some of the songs differ from the film a little bit by why would you look to completely replicate a film that is over 20 years old. Great singing and a wonderful night out.

My wife and I went to the World Premiere of the Commitments in London last Saturday night. I loved the film so booked the tickets 6 months ago. It was so disappointing. A few Tamla songs were sung but hardly any songs from the movie. The writer obviously had no appreciation of soul music and it almost felt like he hadn't even seen the film. The whole show was disjointed and chaotic and the guys and girls on stage did their best to try to perform but to no avail. Rather than spend hundreds of pounds going up to London to watch this, I would recommend renting the movie for a few quid!!

I really wanted to enjoy this show being a big fan of the original film but I’m afraid to say I was slightly disappointed. From the saviours of soul, I was hoping for more songs from the original soundtrack. Although there were a couple, there was more of a rock vibe with songs such as Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. Maybe this is to appeal to a wider audience but this said they are still performed very well. The story at times felt a tad rushed and varied too much away from the original film for me. I feel they missed keys characters and scenes from the film that could have brought this show to life. This is demonstrated though with the introduction of Mickah Wallace. The star of the show is Deco. My one worry was that the lead could not match the charisma and voice of Andrew Strong. But I am pleased to say he does. After the show, we were treated to Mustang Sally and Try a little tenderness brilliantly performed but I wish these were included in the storyline.