Rebecca Richard reviews The Commitments musical as it toured Glasgow in early December.
Grasping my ludicrously priced plastic cup of wine, I entered the brightly lit auditorium to the cast chatting and drinking on stage, to my surprise. Defying the usual use of an unassuming stage curtain, it was a nod for what was to come.
The Commitments is a feel-good musical production, which follows a group of young adults on their journey to form a soul band in 1980’s Ireland. The aspiring musicians navigate the trials and tribulations of being young, skint and hungry for success. The story centres on band manager Jimmy, who pieces together a band of misfits from all walks of life, with no performing experience, but the hope and desire to learn and make music. We follow the band’s rise to success through the costuming, with the amateur performers starting out in classic hideous 80’s jumpers, before transitioning to sexy red dresses and tuxedos by the end. The set changes were clever, with high-rise stone flat walls rotating into bedroom walls plastered with posters to give us the illusion that we were now indoors.
With high-energy performances of classic soul hits like River Deep, Mountain High and Mustang Sally, the cast had every audience member on their feet dancing and singing by the end. However, if you’re expecting a live version of the 1991 film, you may be somewhat disappointed. Several hit songs are missed out, and the actor playing arrogant lead singer Deco is arguably too attractive to play the role of the disgusting, vulgar gentleman we came to know.
While the cast were phenomenal, belting out hit after hit of classic soul tunes, the plot did perhaps leave something to be desired. It feels like one of those stories where nothing really happens, but the audience is just happy to be along for the ride. That being said, the ending felt rather abrupt. Band manager Jimmy steps out from the stage curtain to inform us the show has finished, to which I was admittedly pretty shocked, as there were no pressing conflicts resolved that made the show feel fully concluded. This, coupled with everyone standing, dancing and singing by the end, definitely made the show feel more like a tribute soul gig, just with some intermittent dialogue to transition from song to song. I would have loved a deeper dive into the classic romantic conflicts between bandmates, which was only really alluded to throughout the show.
While the overall plot isn’t winning any awards, the vocals are fantastic – particularly the three female leads, who made the tough songs and pitch perfect harmonies seem so effortless. The Commitments was a down-to-earth, heart-warming performance that, as a twenty-something student, I felt I could relate to. The themes of hope and friendship resonated with me; everyone falling out, then subsequently falling in again, all in the name of having a good time together.
The Commitments is touring the UK until July 2023.