Based on the 1991 film and Roddy Doyle book of the same name, The Commitments is an outstanding must-see musical like no other. For those unfamiliar with the much-loved story, the plot follows a dysfunctional soul band from Dublin, Ireland – by the name of The Commitments – and their journey to become “the world’s hardest working band”. Live on stage, the cast performs several classics from the film – such as ‘Mustang Sally’ and ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ – as well as other soul songs that weren’t featured in the film.
Brian Gilligan stars as the lead singer of the Commitments, Deco Cuffe. Both Gilligan’s vocal talent and stage presence are striking, and he brings great likability to the infamous Deco. As the frontman, he is perfectly cast – Gilligan steals every scene that he appears in. However, the rest of the cast offer equally faultless performances. As a group, they work together as a boundlessly energetic network, overloaded with enthusiasm.
Stand-out performances are delivered by Gilligan, Sam Fordham and the girls – Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders. Sam Fordham is the confrontational and paranoid bodyguard (and backup drummer) Mickah, whose performance provides a lot of laughs. And although the girls are intended to be backing singers, their incredible voices are rightfully paraded, with the characters often stealing the limelight from the arrogant Deco and letting their voices be heard. Their performances are perfectly synchronised, and they bring glamour to the otherwise charmingly unrefined group. Even Kevin Kennedy, better known for his role as Curly Watts in Coronation Street was unrecognisable as Jimmy’s dad and the caretaker.
And while the musical is a terrific nod to the iconic film and book, it also stands alone as an astounding production in its own right. Director and choreographer Caroline JayRanger has put together a spectacular blend of meticulously choreographed performances and quick-witted, engaging scenes. With Soutra Gilmour using both skilful set design and simplistic costuming to bring 1986 Dublin to life on stage.
Although the Commitments has a particularly large cast and crew, their efforts are all reflected in the sheer brilliance of the production. On its opening night in Manchester, the performance received a standing ovation, and it’s not difficult to see why. Within the cast, there is not a single weak link, with each of them putting an astonishing amount of enthusiasm and effort into their performance. The atmosphere is electric, and the musical is a credit to, what are perhaps, theatre’s hardest working cast and crew.
The Commitments runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until 8th April 2017. The production continues at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from 17th-22nd April 2017.
Now in its fifth year, it’s a week-long run of amazing solo and one-to-one live art, spoken word, comedy, dance and theatre performances. And this year Contact Theatre have a bold line-up of artists including Chris Brett Bailey, Jackie Hagan, Keisha Thompson, Cheryl Martin, Jamie Lewis Hadley and the vacuum cleaner, as well as premières from last year’s Contact Flying Solo commission winners Louise Orwin and Ester Natzijil.
For those fancying a bit of Shakespeare -Northern Broadsides production of King Lear is at The Lowry from 5th May until 9thMay 2015. Renowned for their down-to-earth performance style, Northern Broadsides have won over a whole new generation of Shakespeare fans. And if you want to treat yourself to a rock ‘n’ roll musical inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the Olivier Award winning rock spectacular Return to the Forbidden Planet blasts into The Palace Theatre, Manchester from 4th May until 9th May 2015.
The premiere of Jim Cartwright’s The Ancient Secret of Youth and the Five Tibetansstarring Denise Welch, Tom Mannion, Eric Potts, Lauren Drummond, and Matt Tait is running at Bolton Octagon until 23rd May 2015.
Box of Tricks Theatre Company present Plastic Figurines at The Lowry on the 6th May and 7th May 2015.
“Mum told me that there was something in his brain that was different, she said that he liked to put his toys in lines and that was a symptom or whatever. I used to go in his room and see all his stuffed animals in a line and I’d mess them up. I’d mess the line up.”
Inspired by events in the writer, Ella Carmen Greenhill’s own life, Plastic Figurines is a funny and moving new play that explores autism and the relationship between siblings with very different views of the world.
From 10th May- 17th May…
The story of the greatest middleweight never to be champion, Len Johnson ‘Fighter’is showing at Studio Salford in The Kings Arms in Salford from 11th May until 13th May.
RITES is on at Contact Theatre from 12th May until 14th May.It is a powerful and provocative new production exploring the deep-rooted cultural practice of Female Genital Mutilation, a local and national issue in the UK. With a strong creative team behind this production, it is a verbatim piece based on interviews with girls, women and professionals who have been affected by the practice.
Told by an Idiot and The Royal Exchange present The Ghost Train from 14th May until 20th June 2015.
Told by an Idiot return to the Royal Exchange, bringing their trademark wit, flare and theatrical invention to this blisteringly funny take on the classic ghost story.
Newly opened HOME on First Street in Manchester kicks off with the world premiere of The Funfair on 14th May until 13th June. Featuring a live band playing a soundtrack of iconic tracks, The Funfair promises to be a theatrical experience that will immerse you in all the colour, chaos and fun of the fair.
Meanwhile, Boeing Boeing opens at Oldham Coliseum on the 15th May and runs until 6th June 2015.
The Three Minute Theatre, based in Afflecks Arcade present a FREE event, Three Friends and you, on 14th May 2015 – it’s an evening of spoken word with a focus on mental health, in support of Mental Health Awareness week.
Winner of the Best Studio Production Award at The Manchester Theatre Awards, He Had Hairy Hands returns to The Lowry on the 15th and 16th May 2015. It’s described as Hammer Horror meets the Wicker Man, Scooby Doo and The League of Gentlemen…
Other hot picks on at The Lowry this week are Different is Dangerous on the 14th May2015 and Edinburgh Fringe sell-out, So It Goes on the 15th May 2015.
From 18th May -25th May…
The Call of Nature by Mike Heath runs for 7 nights from 18th May 2015 until 24th May 2015 in The Cellar at The Kings Arms, Salford. You are strongly recommended to get your tickets early for this event, as due to the intimate performance space, there will only be 18 tickets available per night.
Harper Lee’s much loved story – To Kill a Mockingbird is running at The Lowry from 19th May until 23rd May 2015.
Cuddles, the story of Eve a 13 year old vampire, is guaranteed to give you shivers in The Studio at The Royal Exchange from the 19th May until 23rd May 2015.
Billed as one of the best musical theatre nights of the year and acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels arrives at The Opera House Manchester on the 20th May and runs until 30th May 2015.
And if you didn’t catch Len Johnson ‘Fighter’ at Studio Salford earlier in the month – it is showing again at Bolton Octagon on the 20th and 21st May 2015.
The 56 arrives at The Studio in The Lowry Theatre on the 23rd May 2015, retelling the stories of those involved in the Bradford City Fire in 1985.
The Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival comes to Oldham on 23rd May 2015.With events taking place in and around Oldham Coliseum.
I’ll be doing another post with theatre and entertainment ideas for the family during the May half term – but for now there is The Journey Home at Z-Arts on the 23rd May 2015. It’s suitable for ages 2+ and is based on the book by Frann Preston -Gannon. There is also One Little Word, a beautiful story about friendship suitable for ages 3+, at The Lowry on the 24th and 25th May 2015.
From 26th May onwards…
Judy – The Songbook of Judy Garland is on at The Palace Theatre, Manchester from the 28th May until 30th May 2015. Along with never before seen film highlights and interviews, Judy’s dazzling songbook is brought to life by the creme of London’s West End.
On the 29th and 30th May 2015 HOME and Rosie Kay Dance Company present5 Soldiers – The Body is the Frontline – it’s site specific with the Rusholme Army Reserve Centre providing the appropriate backdrop for a piece that weaves a story of physical transformation, helping us to understand what makes a soldier and how the experience of warfare affects those that choose to put their life on the line.