Go and see The Commitments if you love Motown and live music. Don’t bother if you believe a musical needs to have a proper plot to entertain you for two and a half hours.
The show follows Jimmy as he sets up a soul band in Dublin made up of working class lads, three pretty girls they barely know and a middle-aged trumpet legend, Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan. The band, who aren’t very good to start with, start rehearsing and land their first gigs, but have to deal with a saxophonist who’s leaning towards jazz, Joey getting all the girls and an egotistic lead singer.
If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like a lot of drama, you’d be right and there’s the problem. After a slow start, the plot never really goes anywhere except as a platform for the band to play music, and they don’t even play several songs all the way through in rehearsals.
Equally strangely is main man Jimmy, played by Denis Grindel, who exudes charisma but is not actually part of the band and ends up dancing around like a spare part during the musical set at the end.
However, I don’t want to sound totally negative. The live music, played both on and off-stage, is consistently fantastic and always a strong arrangement, making the final 15 minutes an absolute delight. The singers are also great, especially the three girls in River Deep, Mountain High, although lead singer Brian Gilligan as Deco’s finest moment comes in finale Try A Little Tenderness.
Other musical highlights include Knock On Wood, the anthemic Reach Out (I’ll Be There), the girls belting out You Keep Me Hangin’ On and I Heard It Through The Grapevine.
Musically, The Commitments does hit the spot, particularly in the second half. But for a coherent jukebox musical, you’d be better off seeing Jersey Boys.