Review: The Commitments at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Review: The Commitments at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments

Newcastle Theatre Royal, 26th June 2023.

The Commitments started out life as a novel in 1987 which was then turned into a movie in 1991. Its route to the stage was somewhat torturous because, as Roddy Doyle, admits he had become a little resentful that his novel had become so popular at, he felt, the expense of his other work. He was convinced to allow it to be adapted into a stage musical after seeing a production of The Producers and I am very pleased about that. 

The Commitments Prodcution Photos taken in Bromley on the 24th September 2022

The audience, this evening, were enthralled and engaged from the very start and encouraged the very talented cast without becoming over boisterous or disruptive. This was possibly down to the demographic who were definitely older than most of the audiences to your average jukebox musical. This added to the ambience and made for a thoroughly absorbing evening of instantly recognisable soul classics and pop favourites. 

The story tells the tale of a ragtag group of Dublin lads and lasses who form a band under the management of young and enthusiastic Jimmy (James Killeen.) They hold auditions and after weeding out the no-hopers start to build their act – with a few minor hiccups along the way. 

The band is made up of Outspan (Michael Mahony) on guitar, Derek (Guy Freeman) on bass, Billy (Ryan Kelly) on drums, Dean (Conor Litten) on saxophone. James (Stephen O’Riain) on piano, Joey the Lips (Stuart Reid) on Trumpet and lead singer Deco (James Deegan) with backing singers Imelda (Ciara Mackey), Natalie (Eve Etchingham) and Bernie (Sarah Gardiner) who were all outstanding playing their instruments, dancing and the vocals were superb. 

In the midst of some amazing musical brilliance were two outstanding performances from Nigel Pivaro (better known to most as Terry Duckworth from Coronation Street) who puts in a delightfully sarcastic but loveable turn as Jimmy’s Da and also as the acerbic caretaker of the community centre where The Commitments perform their very first gig. If it were possible, they were all eclipsed by the character Mickah (Ronnie Yorke), a skinhead with only the scantest grip on his explosive and often violent temper. To single anyone out in this obviously close-knit cast of incredible performers is to do them a disservice because they are all clearly very close as a cast and thoroughly enjoying their performances and it is a delight to see. 

The story is very well told and never feels rushed or slow. The musical direction (Adam Smith) is well thought out and slick. The set (Tim Blazdell) is clever and effective in its simplicity and the lighting design (Jason Taylor) is flashy and blinding in places but appropriate for the piece. 

With musical numbers opening with Proud Mary through Papa was a Rollin’ Stone to Moon River, The Commitments is a veritable treasure trove of soul classics that will delight everyone – the final compilation had the near sell-out audience on their feet at the end whooping and cheering for more.

You The Commitments is signed, sealed, delivered and joy from beginning to end and plays at The Theatre Royal until 1st July where the tour ends. It also represents the final show to appear at The Theatre Royal which was rescheduled due to the disruption caused by the global pandemic of Covid-19 so many congratulations to all the staff for reaching this glorious milestone. 

The Commitments plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Mon 26 Jun – Sat 1 Jul 2023. Tickets are priced from £20.00 and can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

– Stephen Stokoe

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