The Commitments Review – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

The Commitments 2023
Image Source: Ellie Kurttz

Show: The Commitments
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Date: Monday 17 April 2023
Time: 19.30
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes incl. Interval
Director: Andrew Linnie

Based on the BAFTA award-winning film, adapted from the iconic novel by Booker prize winning author Roddy Doyle and directed by Andrew Linnie, The Commitments at Liverpool‘s Empire Theatre stars Nigel Pivaro – better known for his portrayal of Coronation Street bad boy, Terry Duckworth.

Description Of The Commitments

The Commitments musical has been advertised as a ‘fantastically feel-good celebration of soul’, the show returning to tour the UK and Ireland. So, after a successful five year run in London’s West End, I was keen to see it.

So, the expectant audience at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre were treated to high-energy performances of classic soul hits; Mustang Sally, In The Midnight Hour, Reach Out I’ll Be There and I Heard It Through The Grapevine. The show provided a further plethora of brilliant, soulful tunes that kept on coming!

Analysis Of The Commitments

The plot is a little thin, it doesn’t replicate the film. But a good deal of thought has gone into building the show, based upon the original novel. The story happens in the bleak economic deprivation of 1980s Dublin. However, despite that, there is a good deal of humour and optimism. Jimmy Rabbitte (James Killeen) has a dream of forming a band that plays 1960s soul. After putting out an advert, an unlikely group of musicians form The Commitments.

Despite some in-fighting and a few over-inflated egos, the band goes about belting out classics like Chain of Fools and many others against a backdrop of shabby pubs and dilapidated clubs. Sadly, a lot of the songs are snippets, providing a soundtrack to the action rather than the regular set piece. So, more of a backdrop really.

The Music

Seriously accomplished musicians play band members Deco (Ian McIntosh), Oustpan (Michael Mahony), Billy (Ryan Kelly), Dean (Conor Litten), Derek (Guy Freeman), James (Stephen O’Riain), Mickah (Ronnie Yorke), and Stuart Reid as Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, an experienced trumpet player. Ciara Mackey (Imelda), Eve Kitchingman (Natalie), and Sarah Gardiner (Bernie) are the backup singers.

Jimmy’s ‘Da’ (Nigel Pivaro) – an Elvis fan, offers up gems of bitter experience alongside his evident wry amusement at his son’s musical dreams. Pivaro plays the part well. The curtain finale of Try A Little Tenderness lifts the Empire’s roof and the cast received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Summary Of The Commitments

The Commitment plays at the Liverpool Empire Theatre until Saturday, 22nd April. It’s a great “feel-good” show!

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good