Wednesday, December 7

The Commitments – Hull New Theatre

I spent Hallowe’en in Dublin, Ireland – not literally, I was at the Hull New Theatre on Monday evening watching The Commitments, a story set in the Emerald Isle.

The production, part of a nine-month UK and Ireland tour, had me hooked from the opening scene of a disparate bunch of pub regulars, in the run-up to Christmas.

Based on the 1991 film of the same name, it tells of local working-class music-lover Jimmy (James Killeen) who persuades a number of his compatriots to form a band with him. Amazed to be asked, they all agree; three girl singers and a very experienced trumpeter, Joey the Lips (Stuart Reid), also sign up.

Deco (Ian McIntosh) is equally amazed to be asked to be the lead singer, only having sung in public on a drunken night out, which he had no recollection of.

What follows is an amusing merry-go-round of fights, fun and frolics as the group, calling themselves The Commitments, shape-up to reach their goal of being the best “working-class soul band in Dublin”.

McIntosh has a voice to die for (he doesn’t look bad, either) but, as Deco, his “I’m better than you lot” attitude makes him unpopular with the others.

The Commitments Production Photos taken in Bromley on the 24th September 2022 – Photo Ellie Kurrtz

Jealousy raises its ugly head when the three girls join the group. Imelda (Ciara Mackey), Natalie (Eve Kitchingman) and Bernie (Sarah Gardiner), are all sassy young talents with fabulous singing voices.

But when other band members realise Joey the Lips is getting from at least two of the girls what they wished they were getting, well, it ain’t pretty.

Amidst all this drama, someone walked onto the stage that had such an impact, making me realise just how important casting is in a performance. So, take a bow David Grindrod Associates CDG for casting Ronnie Yorke in the role of Mickah, a shaven-headed lout in bovver boots whose every move had me in stitches. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, even when he wasn’t centre stage. His character has a hidden talent, too.

As Jimmy struggles to form the band and hold its warring members together, he is always backed to the hilt by his dad, or “da’, a role which ex-Coronation Street star, Nigel Pivaro, played to understated perfection.

In fact, all played their roles to perfection in what was two hours of pure joy.

Catchy songs such as Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, River Deep, Mountain High, Try A Little Tenderness, Knock On Wood, In The Midnight Hour and my fave, Thin Line Between Love And Hate, were just a few of the classic hits sung on the night.

McIntosh’s vocals did more than justice to them, but all voices were loud and tuneful. As was the live music on the night.

Apart from the music, we felt enormous sympathy for Jimmy’s endeavours, and Killeen, though in a lead role, cleverly never attempted to outshine the rest of the band. Yet we couldn’t ignore his presence – and didn’t want to, willing him to succeed.

Top marks, too, to the stage setting, lighting and sound engineers. A prolonged standing ovation for the cast showed just how much we in the audience had enjoyed their antics. I loved every madcap second!

Running until Saturday, November 5th, 2022; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Thursday, November 3rd and Saturday, November 5th. Tickets from £20. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 31st October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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