Friday, November 1, 2013

The Commitments, 22nd October

I was invited by the lovely people at Superbreak.com to attend a showing of the new musical The Commitments and review it. Having not seen the motion picture or read the book, I had few preconceptions, although I did know it involved soul music.

As far as musicals go, it was a good night out. It didn't really have to worry about not having any memorable songs, as all the songs are classic soul grooves that you'll probably already know and leave humming at the end. The storyline is basically your classic 'let's put on a show' that MGM milked so successfully for years, only this time they're gigging, not just putting on one show, and hope to make it to the big time. I gather in the movie this all goes very pear-shaped and I don't think I will be spoiling it if I say things don't run smoothly in the musical either, with plenty of upsets and in-fighting. However, in this version we do end on a positive note.

In this respect The Commitments is quite a warm, kinda cheesy all-singing all-dancing show and what with all the upbeat music I want to say it's a perfect show for a family. Although it is meant to be set in a run-down area from which the group is trying to escape through music, this isn't really emphasised and the sets they conjure to go with this are fun rather than depressing. But the cast swears constantly throughout the production with many a reference to sex and therefore even though it feels like a family musical, it really isn't.

The show itself is enjoyable enough. The first half felt more like a play than a musical - even though there were songs, there weren't any BIG numbers with synchronised dancing and the whole cast on stage. I expect musicals to be bigger than life, whereas this felt more life-sized. However, the second half stepped up a bit as The Commitments' gigs got progressively bigger. When they performed 'Satisfaction' the pace really picked up, with the lead singer mugging the Mick Jagger thing to great effect. 

Deco, the lead singer was by far my favourite character - bringing over-the-top humour to it without seeming too forced. His singing, however, was not the strongest of the cast's in my opinion. I'm not saying he didn't have a good voice but sometimes he overdid it. He sounded best when he hit the high sultry notes rather than rocking out... I much preferred the main backing girl's voice and it's kind of a shame the original story didn't have her taking over. I felt the lead character Jimmy was a little corny and innocent for my liking, but my liking does tend towards the morose. 

I really liked the openly makeshift sets and the quirky way they achieved flashbacks and of course the music got your toes tapping and your fingers clicking. Knock on Wood, Satisfaction, Think and Grapevine all feature and put you in the mood to dance. 

I gather that the movie featured Mustang Sally but we had got to the end of the show and Mustang Sally hadn't appeared. But, this show knows which side its bread is buttered on. And keeping with the 'watching a band' motif, it seemed only right that the cast should do an 'encore'. Which of course included Mustang Sally. Everyone was encouraged to get out of their seats, clap their hands, and get down. And everyone did. I think the sole curmudgeons who didn't were me and Stephen - I didn't because I was full of cold, I don't know what Stephen's excuse was. They ended on Al Green's Try a little Tenderness and everyone came away with smiles on their faces. So I think this show will be a success for the duration of its run, although I don't think it will enter the annals of Musical classics shared by the likes of Les Miserables, Chicago and Cats. Yes - Cats! I love that show and I don't care who knows it.

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.