Theatre review: The Commitments 

Get ready for a nostalgic trip back to the 1980s with the best-selling novel–cum-BAFTA-award-winning-film-turned-musical, The Commitments!

Adapted from Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel written 35 years ago, which became a BAFTA winning film, The Commitments was one of the must-see films of the early 1990s.

Back in 2013, the musical opened in the West End and enjoyed a record-breaking two-year residency at the Palace Theatre. A major tour of the country followed in 2016 and 2017.

And now the nine-month UK & Ireland 2022-23 tour has arrived in Bristol big time!

Packed with more than 20 soul classics including Mustang Sally, River Deep Mountain High, Papa was a Rolling Stone – you will be humming along and tapping your toes to this high adrenaline performance.

Set in a down-at-heel neighbourhood in Dublin in 1987, music fan Jimmy Rabbitte dreams of something better and goes out on a mission to turn a misfit group of musicians into Dublin’s best soul band – and The Commitments are born. With lead singer Deco and Joey the trumpet play signing up – the band is on its way to the lofty heights of success.

Moments of brilliance

The show is littered with comedic moments from the dry wit of Jimmy’s ‘Da’ to the in-band squabbles. And one of the many moments of brilliance were the band auditions at the door, giving snapshots of songs from the 1980s, including one of my all-time faves, ‘Don’t you want’ me by The Human League.

The storyline, authentic costumes (I’m sure I saw a Sony walkman) and scenery help shine a spotlight on life in the 1980s from the opening scene in a bar, Da (Nigel Pivaro aka Terry Duckworth from Coronation Street) sat in his armchair in his zip-up patterned beige cardy (my dad had one!) to the concrete tenement block they are living in. 

The clever scene changes were ingenious from the opening bar, to the front room and bedroom, to the tenement block and the Miami Vice nightclub – the latter a throwback to the hit 1980s popular TV programme.

From the sensational singing to the tongue-in-cheek one-liners – you will laugh out loud from beginning to end! The whole theatre was on its feet – a brilliant, uplifting performance.

The Commitments is running til 25 March at Bristol Hippodrome

Cathy Parnham