A touch of Irish soul warms winter hearts in SW19
Ian McIntosh takes the lead role of Deco in the Commitments
As we arrived for The Commitments at New Wimbledon Theatre it already felt like a touch of glamour was descending on our part of SW19 with the sight of a pack of photographers around the theatre's steps.
They were there to grab a snap of TV's Holly Willoughby who didn't disappoint as she made her entrance up the theatre's Edwardian steps.
But the real star of the evening was Ian McIntosh, whose performance as the arrogant and talented lead singer of The Commitments turned the evening into a memorable celebration of soul.
The musical is based on the 1987 novel by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, who has himself adapted the stage version. It tells the story of a bunch of young musicians cobbled together into a band by Jimmy Rabbitte (James Killeen).
These Dubliners share a love of Motown and have the ambition to escape from their mundane lives by turning themselves into the finest soul band in Ireland.
First comes a series of auditions at Jimmy's home, with some of the more hapless attempts raising a few smiles as well as the eyebrow's of Jimmy's father - played by Nigel Pivaro, of Coronation Street fame.
The show really warms up with the appearance of veteran musician Joey Fagan (played by Stuart Reid) who has his share of tall stories about playing with legendary musicians. He helps inspire the gang to get their act together in time for their first performance at their local community centre.
If you enjoy soul music, then you won't be disapppointed with the classic songs performed by The Commitments - including Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate and Knock On Wood.
As lead singer, Deco doesn't lack confidence, but his character is the unreliable link in the band. However, McIntosh is quite a superb singer and the show's stand-out performer. Most of the women in the audience also seemed to enjoy the glimpse of him dressing up in his tuxedo!
The three female members of the cast - Ciara Mackey as Imelda, Eve Kitchingman as Natalie and Sarah Gardiner as Bernie - all have wonderful voices and real stage presences. It's a shame they couldn't have more dialogue, but the story perhaps reflects the more male-dominated world of 20th century Dublin.
As the story unfolds the female threesome spark jealousy in the male members of the band. Not even the skinhead bouncer Mickah (Ronnie Yorke) can stop the group from fighting and splitting up.
Naturally there's a finale that gets us all off our seats as Deco encourages the audience to start dancing along. There's even a bit of audience participation when we're encouraged to join in the singing as well!
This feel-good show will give everyone a lift and who doesn't want a boost during a miserable January?
93 The Broadway, Wimbledon SW19 1QG
2 hours 15 minutes including interval
Until Saturday January 14 at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.
By Sue Choularton
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January 13, 2023