Not only are some of the cast making their West End debuts but others who have come through the walk-up audition process are making their professional acting debuts. Under the guidance of hit West End director Jamie Lloyd, The Commitments will be bringing Roddy Doyle’s brilliant story to life from 8 October, with previews from 21 September.
The lead role of Jimmy Rabbitte, the band’s manager, is to be played by West End debutant Denis Grindel, who is still finishing his stage school dissertation. Having completed a law degree, Denis was about to sign his contract when he took a late audition for drama school, and won a place. Just one year on, he’s bringing the affable Jimmy to life on the West End stage. Now that’s soul.
The arrogant but gifted lead singer of The Commitments is Deco, to be played by popular stage actor Killian Donnelly, who will be rocking to a very different beat to the roles he played in Phantom of the Opera and in both the film and stage production of Les Miserables. Killian has waited his whole life to play this role, having constantly been told by his mum that he was too young to watch or read The Commitments, when growing up in Dublin.
The Commitmentettes, Dublin’s answer to The Supremes, are to be played by three young Dublin girls, all making their West End debuts – Sarah O’Connor, Stephanie McKeon and Jessica Cervi. Playing the senior musician in the group, the spiritually inspired trumpet player extraordinaire, Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan, is the talented and well versed Ben Fox. Joey is the band’s original soul man and has quite a way with the ladies. They don’t call him ‘The Lips’ for nothing. Ben counts Backbeat and The Midnight Hour among his many credits.
Playing Jimmy Rabbitte’s father is established actor Sean Kearns who has starred in Alan Parker’s film Angela’s Ashes and the BBC’s Ballykissangel. Other roles include Mark Dugdale as Derek, Brian Gilligan as Billy, Andrew Linnie as Dean, Joe Woolmer as Mickah, Matthew Wycliffe as Outspan and Padraig Dooney as Ensemble.
The Commitments has been adapted for the stage by Booker Prize-winning Doyle, from his original novel. It will be directed by the award-winning Jamie Lloyd, who recently directed the critically acclaimed Macbeth, and will be packed with classic soul songs including Think by Aretha Franklin, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones, Papa Was A Rolling Stone by The Temptations, Night Train by James Brown, In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett and Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding.
The Commitments is the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians into an amazing live act, the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. The show follows the journey of two members of a frustrated synthesiser band – the opening scene has them playing but ignored in a shop window - who turn to Jimmy, the local music expert, for help. Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a number of wannabes before finalising the new line-up who he names The Commitments. The humour kicks in as the band get to know each other and their instruments, and proceed through early rehearsals to their first gig. Just as they improve and begin to get a name for themselves they combust. The backing singers are all getting off with the middle aged trumpet legend, the singer has entered Eurovision and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career.
A huge hit when released as a film version in 1991, The Commitments musical looks set to capture theatregoers gearts in much the same way.
Book The Commitments tickets at the Palace Theatre now