The Commitments, The Grand Opera House, Belfast, February 20th, 2023

By Conor O’Neill

Based on the book by Roddy Doyle, The Commitments has long been recognised as a musical masterpiece. And judging by last night’s performance it’s easy to see why.

For those unfamiliar with the work it’s set around a soul band in 1980s Dublin. The band’s manager Jimmy has a chip on each shoulder but dreams of musical success to get out of the means street of north Dublin. Perfectly played by James Killeen, Jimmy jaded outlook sees Dubliners as ‘the black of Ireland and north Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin.

With this comment the tone is set as Jimmy sets to manage a gaggle of local musicians into the best soul band in Dublin. We’re introduced to Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (Stuart Reid) lead singer and heartthrob Deco (Ian McIntosh) to the three ladies, Imelda (Ciara Mackey), Natalie (Eve Kitchingman) and Bernie (Sarah Gardiner).

Jimmy’s dad is played by ex-Coronation Street star Nigel Pivaro and shares his son’s cynicism. Jimmy’s cynicism ends with his love of music. Soul music! with 20 on stage at times the mood is often frantic, but what holds the plotline together is Doyle’s snappy writing and director Andrew Linnie’s clever use of pacey scenes and intertwining the band scenes with the plot progression.

A five-piece band of session musicians/actors never put a note wrong. Musical director George Francis runs a tight ship and what a catalogue of tracks they have in their arsenal. From the Stones I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, to I Heard It Through The Grapevine, River Deep Mountain High and their trademark Mustang Sally there’s something here for music lover of all ages. But it’s not all big ballsy numbers, tracks like I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Mr Pitiful slow the pace down when the plot deserves it. What’s guaranteed is you’ll be bopping away in your seat for the entire two hours and 10 minutes of the running time.

Unfortunately for those late to the table, I’m told the run is a sell-out. But be optimistic and try and get cancellations. There’s bound to be a few tickets going wanting.

For those of you lucky enough to have booked in advance, you can expect one hell of a night out. The Commitments is a sure-fire winner and you’re bound to have a ball.

And the ending is some thing that’ll stay rooted in my memory for many years to come. Standing ovation well deserved

The Commitments runs at The Grand Opera House up to and including Saturday, February 25, 2023.

For ticket enquiries visit,uk or simply phone the box office on 02890 241919

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