“Why don’t you get out of my life and let me make a new start?”
Cast and crew members across the West End may not agree but I do find it surprising that more shows haven’t gone for the variation of Sunday evening performances in their schedules. Particularly with tourists, it’s a ready-made and captive audience with little else to do in this bustling city and by the looks of the Palace Theatre last night, keen as mustard. That said, it can be something of a trial going out on a Sunday night when a work-filled Monday morning is looming around the corner.
For me though, the chance to see The Commitments one more time before it closes its doors after a run that has lasted more than two years was enough to tempt me out and I’m glad I did as it really is good fun. Technically speaking, it is less of a musical than I would strictly consider, the narrative quickly gives way to a mini-concert at the show’s end but with music as good as this, and an actor-musician cast as talented as this, such crowd-pleasing antics feel entirely forgivable.
And I’d forgotten how witty Jamie Lloyd’s production was in Soutra Gilmour’s endlessly inventive set (the rain!), evoking a strong sense of 80s Dublin life and the escape that music provides for so many. The ‘You Just Keep Me Hangin’ On’ sequence as the various new band members learn their separate parts and then come together gloriously breathes new life in a hackneyed cinematic trope and delivers a solid gold moment.
And once the band is together, that’s pretty much it. The music is what is left and that’s all that really matters. Brian Gilligan’s manic Deco, Antony Hunt’s grizzled Joey, Sarah O’Connor, Natalie Hope and Jessica Cervi’s soaring vocalists, the swoonworthy Ryan Gibb on the drums (as Billy maybe?) – the cumulative is huge amounts of fun and a roaring good time. Two years seems a decent gig for this show and I’m glad it will go onto tour, one can imagine it doing very well indeed.