Challenges

Well its been a year since I wrote a post like this one and it’s been just over a year since I started blogging. I must say (from a blog point of view) it’s been amazing. I have been lucky enough to interview some wonderful people and to see some fantastic productions.

I have flipped and flopped and ummed and aahed countless times. I’ve pondered and wondered and I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’ve questioned everything and worried even more. But I am eternally grateful to all those who have taken the time out to answer my questions and to all of those who have read my posts.  It has made everything worthwhile.

I have been extremely thankful for the number of reviews which have come my way this year, including those which, for whatever reason I have not been able to make. A shout out must therefore be made here to The Public Reviews, London Theatre and Official Theatre, all of whom have offered me the chance to review productions and therefore represent them. I thank them so much, hope I did them all proud and I also hope they will think of me again through 2014.

Sadly, the main reason for turning down numerous reviews in the last fee months has been because on October 6th my horse and I were out for a ride and we had a nasty accident. Many of you already know this, but the outcome was 2 dislocated and shattered wrists and therefore the inability to do anything for myself.

As it stands, I am thoroughly miserable, not to mention bored,  and I am awaiting a second operation on both wrists. My surgeon, a wrist specialist, did not exactly comfort me when he said they were the worst injuries he’s ever seen. I am guessing from this that you can see why I have been unable to go to the theatre or review anything since. Even typing is painful and an extremely slow process, every day I am able to do a little more but this second surgery will delay my progress for another short while.

All most frustrating.  I think it will be hard for 2014 to be worse than 2013, as also this year we have had my Godmother who is suffering from breast cancer, an aunt in hospital for months (she’s still there, she weighs 5 1/2 stone) who is very poorly and an uncle with a heart attack (he already has diabetes and recently started epilepsy). I think it is about time for some good news so I am trying to be optimistic as 2014 rapidly approaches.

I go through regular phases where I feel I should stop blogging. Although I do this for myself, I love for others to read my posts, mainly because, if they are interviews,  folk have taken time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions.  Not something they have to do, so I feel that when people read the interviews it makes it worth the while of my interviewees. I always enjoy feedback and I’d also be interested to know if there is anyone YOU would like to see interviewed.

I have one more interview to write up – Jersey Boys fans watch this space – which I’ll attempt to do before the year is out. Next year I already have five or six plans which I desperately hope my arms won’t prevent me going to so I can blog those as well.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed my posts through 2014. If you have any suggestions so I can improve my blog then please let me know, also posts/interviews or anything else you would like to see.  This blog is as much for you as it is for me. Please do feel free to follow me on Twitter too: @JustSamssister.

I’d like to end by thanking the following:

Killian Donnelly
Niall Sheehy
Nadim Naaman
Steph Parry
Kit Orton and Robert Gould
Simon Bailey
Craig Mather
David Muscat
Scott Alan
Geronimo Rauch

Rebecca at Official Theatre
Neil at London Theatre
Jacqui and Marina at The Public Reviews

YOU. For reading, for supporting and for sharing.  I never thought my little blog would be read so far across the globe. I can’t thank you all individually but each and every one of you visiting here and sharing my posts means so much to me.

Thanks again to all of you and I wish you a very happy, prosperous and above all healthy new year. May 2014 be good for us all.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx
 

Geronimo Rauch answers…

Today’s interview comes from someone who has, over the last few years, really made a name for himself in the world of UK theatre. Having played some of the most iconic roles in musicals, he is currently appearing every night at Her Majesty’s Theatre playing the eponymous role in The Phantom of the Opera. I’d love for you all to learn more about the fabulous Geronimo Rauch.

With Geronimo outside HMT

With Geronimo outside HMT

 1. You have an impressive career so far. When did you decide that performing was something you wanted to do?

I was studying advertising and at the same time I had my singing lessons with a private teacher. Once we did a concert and when I sang ¨sueña¨(dream) something very special changed in me and my way of singing and since then I decided to do this the rest of my life.

2. If you weren’t performing what do you think you would be doing instead?

Advertising or involved in producing musical theatre or directing movies. Hahahaha who knows?
3. You’re from Argentina – what is the theatre scene like out there? You have also performed in Spain, how do they both compare to London?
Argentina´s theatre scene is very impressive and creative. Full of talent and amazing performers. The only problem is that musicals and plays don’t stay 60 years as the Mouse trap or 28 as Les Miserables have done.
I think that the main difference is that Musical Theatre industry in the UK is massive and there is a lot of work. And also the way you study here is amazing. You can have a Degree on Performing Arts! That doesn’t exist in my country. All that I learnt was with private lessons. Thank god I found the best teachers.
4. Was performing on the West End something you always wanted to do? How does it feel to be on stage there, as the lead role, every night?
When I was young I couldn’t imagine myself in the west end because it was something impossible to dream. But since I moved to Spain I felt that the West End was closer and that I could dream on performing here.
Every day when I arrive to Her Majesty´s Theatre I realise where I am and sometimes I don’t believe it is happening.
5. Do you do much preparation for each role? If so, how? Research? Watching the show, reading the book etc?
For Les Miserables I read the book, I saw movies and also I had all the information that I learnt when I was playing Feuilly in Buenos Aires.
For the Phantom I decided to become a blank paper and started filling it with all the information that I got from the creative team.
6. Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions that you have to do before each performance?
Not superstitions! Yes to the rituals but I think I´ll keep them as a secret haha!
7. You’re currently playing the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera. How are you finding this? What is your favourite part?
I love the Point of No Return. I always say this because it reminds me of Buenos Aires and the Tango.
8. You have played three of the most iconic roles in musical theatre – Phantom, Jean Valjean and Jesus (JCS). Do you have a favourite and why?
The three of them are very important in my career. All of them changed me in a good way and I will play them again if I have the chance. But now the Phantom is my new challenge and I’m really enjoying this journey.
9. Which is the most challenging – Bring Him Home, Gethsemane or Music Of The Night? Again, why?
Three master pieces, three intense and brilliant songs. All of them are challenging in different ways but I think that the hardest to sing is Gethsemane.
10. You went through a reality TV show, Pop Stars. Can you talk us through this? What was it like and would you ever do anything like it again?
It was a very intense experience mainly because we became famous instantly and I couldn’t cope with it very easily. But the artistic experience was good and we toured all around Latin America.
I don’t think I would get into a reality show again but I definitely want to became a recording artist again.
11. If you could choose any other role to play now, what would you choose? 
Billy Elliot! Hahahahaah! But I don´t have the age nor the dancing talent.
12. If you could offer any advice to people wanting to perform as you do, what would you say to them?
I would say to prepare and train a lot. And to always follow your dreams because if you believe they will come true. But it is hard work to make them true.
13. What would you say are your career highlights so far?
You named them before Jesus, Valjean and Phantom.
14. Is there anything career-wise that you have not yet done, that you would like to achieve? Any ambitions?
My Goal for next year is to record my solo album and I hope I could make my dream come true.
And here are a few more fun ones, so we get to know you a little better:
1. How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to spend my time with my wife and my son and now I’m discovering that there is a whole new world for me to discover as a father. I also have very good friends here in London.
2. If you could invite three people round for dinner (alive or dead) who would you have?
Freddie Mercury, John Lennon and Bob Marley.
3. Is there anything you can tell us about you that not a lot of people know?
No! hahahah lets keep the mystery!
4. Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you on stage? Can you tell us about it?
It wasn’t on stage but I remember it as the worst moment in my artistic life. I was 8 years old and I sang in front of my classmates. They all started laughing and I think that I had to wait 10 years to sing again in front of an audience haha!
5. If you were an animal, which would you be and why?
A Bear because many friends call me like that in Argentina.
Massive thanks to Geronimo for taking time out to answer these questions, and for giving us a lovely insight into his career. If you haven’t been to see him perform yet then you really need to put this on your to do list – I was blown away by his Phantom and cannot wait to go back to see it again. It is no surprise that he was the favourite Valjean of many and I know that he has a massive career ahead (as if it wasn’t already!). Now to watch this space for his album – I for one will be excited for news.
Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx
PS: Apologies for the formatting once again. I really need to get this sorted!

Killian Donnelly Answers… some more…

I hope that this time my interviewee will need no introduction. After he most kindly agreed to answer some questions for me whilst still in Billy Elliot, he once again allowed me to ask some more following his move to The Commitments, a brand-new show which has recently opened on the West End. I was curious about the production and Killian agreed to enlighten me. Please read on to find out more…

1. So, The Commitments. What is the show about?

K: The Commitments is about a group of kids living in Dublin, who in order to escape their working class lives become part of a soul band. The show reflects the bickering and self-destruction of the band. Nothing life changing but incredibly entertaining.

2. You play Deco. Who is he? Can you tell us more?

K: Declan Cuffe (Deco ‘The Soulman’) is a stubborn prick. He’s hated by everyone, but he doesn’t care because he has a gift. His voice. As the lead singer [of The Commitments] he becomes very cocky and big-headed and diva-like. I’ve just based him on people I’ve worked with (winks).

3. Did you have to do any special research to get into the role?

K: Not really. I’d read the book and seen the film numerous times.

4. Are there any similarities between you and Deco?

K: He’s a much better singer! (N: For anyone who has witnessed Killian, particularly as Deco, you will know that this could not be further from the truth)

5. As mentioned, the Commitments started as a book (by Roddy Doyle who wrote this production) and later became a film. How does the stage production compare?

K: The stage production is a combination of the book and the movie. We take the best of both. We always wanted to be our own entity, never a tribute act.

6. Was this a role you have always liked/wanted?

K: Definitely!

7. Which is your favourite track to perform and why?

K: Midnight Mover. It’s the first track we perform where The Commitments actually start to sound good. We’ve the craic on stage.

8. How were rehearsals?

K: Rehearsals were eight weeks in a hall in Kensington. Basically spent making the band sound brilliant when they needed to be and bloody awful when they should.

9. Do you have a favourite scene?

K: The audition sequence. It’s so quick and snappy with a great medley of songs. (N: It’s also very funny)

10. Why should everyone come to see it?

K: It’s a great play with great songs. You’ve honestly never seen anything like it. Plus we all love singing these songs.

And to finish – a few of my usual quick fire questions:

What is your favourite (non-Commitments) song? K: The Luckiest – Ben Folds

Where is your favourite place? K: Family home

If you were an animal which would you be and why? K: A sloth. I love to sleep.

Is there a little known fact about yourself that you’re able to reveal? K: I love apples.

What’s your favourite joke? Too rude to say.

What’s your favourite way to spend the day? In bed, relaxing with a cup of tea and a good flick. Bliss.

Thank you again to Killian for taking more time out, I am always so grateful to those who have. I hope that answering the questions wasn’t to much of a chore and I also hope that you all enjoy reading the interview. In case you missed it, you can read my original interview with him here: https://ignitedbyadream.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/killian-donnelly-answers/

Anyone wishing to find out my thoughts on, and more about The Commitments can read my review here (In short – amazing): https://ignitedbyadream.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/the-commitments-is-definitely-bringing-soul-to-the-people/

Official Theatre also conducted a recent interview with both Killian and his co-star Denis Grindel (who plays Jimmy Rabbite) which you can view here: www.youtube.com/embed/BPPqentk8H8 . Alternatively you can visit the officialtheatre.com website ( http://www.officialtheatre.com ) and book yourself some tickets – you won’t regret it.

The whole cast are simply brilliant and I think I laughed my way through the whole show. I cannot wait to get back there. I feel privileged to be able to have interviewed the man being hailed as “the star of the show” by many different reviews and I sincerely hope this show has a long run.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Phantom Review: London Theatre

Well, I was very delighted and honoured to be asked to do a review of Phantom of The Opera by Neil from London Theatre. As many of you know, this is a show I absolutely adore, and on top of that I have heard wonderful things about Geronimo Rauch, who, in September, took over the title role. I was unfortunate that I did not get to see him as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables but from others’ accounts of him as JVJ and YouTube videos I was excited to see how he took on the role. Please see for yourself my verdict:

The Phantom of The Opera…A mystery never fully explained. Well, that may be so, but as one of the West End’s longest running shows it is safe to say that many will know what the musical is about. Even if the story is unknown, what is guaranteed are the lavish costumes, vast sets and songs which you will definitely have heard, intentionally or otherwise. If you are after drama and a spectacle then this is absolutely the right show.

As you walk in, you are faced with a stage full of dust covers, some covering the drapes and flourishes, some covering the ‘auction lots’. As the auction progresses, the famous chandelier is revealed and the organ notes which are perhaps the best known of all Andrew Lloyd Webber compositions fill the theatre. Her Majesty’s has housed this show from the beginning and very little has changed over the years, other than the cast.

The overture is used to recreate the Opera Populaire in all her grandeur, followed by a rehearsal scene where the characters are introduced. From the beginning the vocals are strong, both Carlotta (Fiona Finsbury) – the opera diva – and her long suffering, also rather dramatic partner Piangi (Jeremy Secomb), have some big notes. Christine Daae, played in this performance by Harriet Jones, also enters in style; her first number Think Of Me, ending in a tremendous cadenza. Jones played a very dreamy Christine, often appearing to have her mind elsewhere. This worked well for the character who is thought to be in a daydream a majority of the time. She sang well and seemed to have no trouble hitting the top notes. Her Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again was beautiful.

The absolute highlight, however, was Geronimo Rauch’s interpretation of the Phantom. Every time he sang, I found myself with goose-pimples.  He was entirely believable, his vocals were sensational, and his portrayal was moving. It was clear to see how the voice of this stranger was so compelling to Christine, not to mention powerful and Rauch’s Phantom had the perfect balance of anger, resentment and sadness.

The ensemble moments were every bit as bright and tuneful as I remembered and hoped, and the corps de ballet, kept in check by Madame Giry (Jacinta Mulcahy) all danced superbly.  Although all characters need to be strong singers, as there are many multiple part harmonies, I feel it is important that the Phantom is really special, with Christine and Carlotta a close second. They did not disappoint, with Raoul (Antony Hansen), also impressing, particularly during All I Ask Of You, and the owners of the theatre, Messrs Fimin and Andre(Martin Ball and Andy Hockley) adding some humour to the proceedings.

For me, along with the wonderful score, part of what makes this show so incredible is the set. It just keeps on coming. For anyone who hasn’t seen it I don’t want to give too much away, but what starts out looking like a fairly compact stage seems to turn into a bottomless pit each time there is a scene change. I personally like the scenes in the vaults of the theatre (the Phantom’s hideaway) but Masquerade is the most visually stunning.

Although this has been running since 1986, the ‘Brilliant Original’ is so called for a reason. For me, this production never gets old, and I enjoy seeing each actor’s take on the eponymous  character. The title, and the suggestion of opera may put people off, but I think this is a show everyone should experience at least once. I took a friend who had not experienced the show live before. Needless to say she was entranced, it moved her to tears and she thought it was one of the best things she had ever seen. I think, perhaps, that says it all.

 Now, I know many of you have seen this, but I do strongly recommend that if you have not seen this with Mr Rauch, that you book yourselves a ticket. I hope I can go back – I am keen to see Olivia Brereton’s Christine (she was alternate Christine on the Phantom of the Opera UK tour) on the West End  – I loved her on the tour and I am so delighted for her that she is now an alternate West End Christine.

You can purchase tickets here for Phantom and all other London shows: http://www.londontheatre1.com/

Follow them on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

You can also see my original review on the same website.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

David Muscat Answers…

Ladies and Gentleman, may I please introduce to you my next interviewee….David Muscat. If you are unfamiliar with the Australian actor then please read on to learn more. If you are already know about him then I hope this interview will help you to learn more about him.

1. Please introduce yourself….

I’m David Muscat, currently working in Billy Elliot the Musical. I grew up in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne (Australia), at a time when boys dancing wasn’t widely accepted. I was raised by my Great Grandparents Marie & Bernie Bresnan. I’ve been living in London now since May 2010. I like long walks along short beaches.

Myself with David after Billy Elliot in May

Myself with David after Billy Elliot in May

2. You’re Australian, what is the Aussie theatre scene like?

I’m no expert, so in my opinion… I think it’s very similar in a lot of ways but it’s just much bigger here. In Australia there are thousands of extremely talented people all wanting to make a living doing what they love, so in that sense it’s very similar in the competitive nature of the industry. The UK has the West End which, along with Broadway, is the highest platform to be involved in, in the world. Australia doesn’t have that….yet, but some day you never know. There is a lot of passion for the arts in Australia and I’m a firm believer that back at home there’s an extremely high standard of work being done.

3. What brings you to the UK?

Initially I came over for change, to live somewhere where you don’t know what’s around the corner and challenge my comfort zones. One of the major advantages of London, is it’s close proximity Europe. I spent the majority of my first few years here working and travelling. So for me, being able to be in a different country within an hour was a big draw card. You can be flying for 6 hours and still be over Australia back home. I’ve been fortunate to travel to a lot of countries over the past few years, take part in the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona and drink many, many beers in Germany’s Oktoberfest.

4. Are audiences very different between here and Oz?

I think there’s a lot more audience members coming through the doors here thanks to tourism, but other than that I think the lovers of theatre are the same between both countries. There’s always people eager to support theatre, from local non-professional theatre companies, brand new works to large scale productions.

5. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?

I’ve spent the majority of my working life not acting, most of my working life has revolved around office work either in Customer Service or Sales. Previous to getting into Billy here in London I’d worked for a leading UK website as an Advertising Account Manager.

6. You’re currently in Billy Elliot. You have to do a bit of dancing in that – is this something you enjoy?

I’ve danced for most of my life. When I was a young kid I had a condition where my legs were turned inwards at the hips, so I was always tripping over when running. The doctor suggested that I be taken to ballet classes to open out my hips. So from the age of 5 I was doing Jazz, Tap and Ballet at a local dance school. During my childhood, dance was always kept secret from the kids at school and I managed to keep it that way till I was about 16, when I finally left my dance school. I’ve always had a love of dance.

7. What do you like most about Billy?

There is a lot to like. In no particular order, it’s an amazing piece of theatre, so it’s great being a part of something that’s so well written and performed. All the people involved – behind the scenes, on stage and in production are great to work with, always fun and up for a laugh. The audiences are amazing as well and always very supportive. Tap dancing in a 7 foot mechanical dress is also a highlight.

8. Is the Australian production different to the London one? If so, how?

It’s 93.76% the same. Set wise, it was weird walking onto the London stage for the first time after not doing the show for 3 years as even the wallpaper on the set was exactly the same. Show wise, there was a couple of minor changes scene wise. In Australia, they had cut the London audition panel scene in Act 2 and the riot at the end of Act 1 also had differences. Also, Mr Braithwaite in the Australian production was a combination of Big Davey & Mr Braithwaite (Big Davey Braithwaite), so he was one guy instead of being split.

9.Is there any role in theatre that you would like to play? Why?

Psendolus in a Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Such a comedy driven role, something to really sink your teeth into and interacting with the audience is something I love to do.

10. And if you could sing ANY song from a show (even a female one), what would it be?

I’d love to be able to rock out Gethsemane without fear of my vocal chords exploding. Such a powerful song. Either that or It’s Raining Men.

11. Who are your influences and inspirations?

A lot of the TV I watched growing up was good old fashioned British comedy. Carry On films, Are You Being Served, Benny Hill, The Goodies, Dad’s Army, Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, Steptoe and Son, Allo Allo, The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf etc. I grew up on these programmes and loved the honest style of humour.

12. You also perform in cabarets (Singer’s soiree etc) – are these something you would like to keep doing? What do you like about them?

I’m always happy to be involved with charity events because I think there’s a lot of people out there that need assistance and for the price of some time and effort it’s the least I can do. The added advantage is it gives you something else to think about, so it’s a welcomed break from the day to day routines.

13. West End Bares. You took part in this event, could you tell us all about it? How did you get involved? Would you do it again?

West End Bares is an event that MadTrust have put on for the past few years and is a night of immense fun and frivolity. The night raises money for MadTrust and goes to all the good work they do. Each year several people are asked to choreograph a number and they then go and do that with a team of dancers of their choosing, who are from various shows on the West End.
Racky Plews, a fantastically talented director/choreographer (she makes me say that), was asked to do the opening number. She asked if I’d like to be involved and after several coffee meetings and a few bombed ideas, she decided to run with my Neil Patrick Harris Tony Awards Opening idea. We only had about 3 rehearsals, but I think all those involved did a brilliant job.
It was a great night and I’d love to be involved again in some way next time.

Click here to see the sort of happenings at West End Bares: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSb_ErmRsQw&feature=youtu.be

Mad Trust also hold West End Eurovision each year, where the various shows perform a routine as if they were on the Eurovision Song Contest. They all go head to head for votes. Turquoise was a bit of fun, a few of us from Billy (David, Simon Ray Harvey, Matty Dale and Craig Armstrong) entered into the West End Eurovision contest to raise money for MadTrust and take part in a cracking night. It was great fun and was the closest I’ll ever come to being in a boy band. We got some fantastic support, a lot of people worked hard on it and we really enjoyed the ride.

See the Turquoise boys in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSqeeSvBmp8&feature=youtu.be&a

14. Any career highlights?

My favourite so far has been going to the Olivier Awards with some of the Billy peeps and being there when they won the only award that had evaded them for 8 years. Celebrating the Audience Awards was epic fun! On a personal note, sometimes I still pinch myself when I think about where I’ve come from, the local dance school I went to in a little scout hall in Footscray (Melbourne, Australia) and performing in local amateur theatre productions for most of my young adult life to now being fortunate enough to step out on a West End stage each night. It’s something I dreamed about as a kid.

15. Is there anything you would like to achieve that you haven’t yet?

Loads….so much. I’d like to continue working in the entertainment industry and I’d like to create new things across multiple platforms. I’d also like to be invited to either a jelly wrestling competition or local Crufts event before I pass on.

I’m hoping to do a new film later this year. It’s a film I’m working on with Nothin Or Double Films. It’s to be shot in a documentary style, following the journey of a guy, living with his fiancé and best mate from school, with a kooky neighbour and rock legend roadie. It’s all improvised, non scripted. Video teaser is coming soon – Twitter account: @AirGuitarTheMov

16. Outside of MT what do you get up to?

At the moment, not much. 8 shows a week takes it toll and the little time you have is either spent recovering or spending time with those dear to you. But when time permits I try to keep moving forward with creative projects. That and furthering my paper-mâché skills.

And now for some more general questions:

1. If you were an animal, which would you be and why?

I’d be a Koala…. just like the idea of hanging around and being cuddled all day.

2. What single item couldn’t you live without?

My TV…. it’s always there for me…. in good times and bad.

3. Favourite band/singer/recording artist?

Australian band; Thirsty Merc and Mumford & Sons.

4. If you could have any THREE guests to dinner, who would you choose? (Can be anyone, alive or dead).

Gordon Ramsay
Jamie Oliver
Nigella Lawson

Would be the most nervous cooking ever, but would be fun!

5. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chicken Parmigiana. All day, everyday!

6. If you could choose a superpower, which would you pick?

The power to be able to fold fitted sheets without just rolling them up and throwing them in the wardrobe in anger.

7. Do you have any bad habits?

Several… same as anyone else I guess. Putting my french fries in my chocolate sundae is one.

8. Are there any unusual or little facts about yourself that you are willing to share with us?

I grew up with my Great Grandparents and for some time as a little’un, we also had my Great Great Grandmother with us.

I would like to thank David very much for his time and for some very interesting insights. If you don’t already then I recommend checking out MadTrust. It is a very worthwhile charity (supporting those living with HIV and AIDS) and the events they put on are great fun. Follow them on Twitter @MADTrust or go to madtrust.org.uk
You can follow David on Twitter @DavidMMuscat and if you happen to be watching Billy then I also suggest you stop to say hello. He is well worth a follow, so now you know where to find him, please look him up.
Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

 

The Commitments is DEFINITELY bringing soul to the people

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Last night I had the absolute honour of going to one of the first previews in the world of The Commitments musical. Directed by Jamie Lloyd (and already a film), the Roddy Doyle novel has been brought to life in London’s Palace Theatre.

It was my first time being witness to a brand new show with an original cast but I am so pleased that I managed to get tickets. I have to confess to not having read the book (my copy didn’t arrive in time) but I knew the sort of thing I was expecting and I was not disappointed. The story is set in Barrytown (a fictional town) in Ireland, in the mid 1980’s in a time of social upheaval due to high taxes and unemployment. Many people found themselves in the grasp of Heroin. The Commitments is a group formed from people who want to bring soul back to Ireland, to their lives and who are passionate about the music because it’s all they have.

Friends- Outspan, a guitarist, (Matthew Wycliffe) and Derek, a bassist, (Mark Dugdale) – are looking to progress in the music industry, so they end up looking for advice in Jimmy Rabbite, played by Denis Grindel. The Commitments is Grindel’s West End debut, but there is no hint that this is the case as he gives a confident and professional performance as the young hopeful. He has grand ideas for the group and begins auditioning for members. He remembers seeing a drunken performance from a young man and goes to ask him to join the group. This chap becomes The Commitments’ (who are as yet to be named) front man, Deco, played by Killian Donnelly.

After getting together, more members are added – these include The Commitmentettes (the backing singers) – Imelda, Natalie and Bernie (played by Sarah O’Connor, Stephanie McKeon and Jessica Cervi respectively), James the pianist, played by Barnaby Southgate, Joey the trumpeter (Ben Fox), Billy the drummer (Brian Gilligan) and Dean the saxophonist (Andrew Linnie).

An extremely mismatched group, with very little musical talent between them, Rabbite sends them away to learn various soulful tunes, from the likes of The Supremes and Marvin Gaye. They struggle to play their instruments, the singing is pretty terrible, as is the saxophone, and Deco is extremely difficult.The actors playing the Commitments all play their own instruments (initially very badly) but as they begin to perform in public, they begin to improve, gradually playing bigger venues and they eventually start to get press attention and the chance for a recording deal.

Donnelly plays the crude, arrogant and moody Deco with such conviction. He is very temperamental, inclined to walk out at the slightest thing and really only looking out for himself, and most of the other band members really don’t like him. They are told to tolerate him, however, for his vocal ability. And I have to say that Donnelly is incredible. Vocally he is extremely strong, powering out the soul. His energy on stage is infectious and despite the fact that he is difficult, obnoxious and a law unto himself he is hysterically funny (as is the entire production) and you cannot fail to be mesmerised by him. He also throws quite a few shapes, however, he also seems to like eating and getting his kit off!

Each of The Commitmentettes are strong characters, using their female charms to impress Joey the trumpeter, the only member of the group with any real musical experience. This leads to tensions and jealousy between the other members of the group (who all rather like Imelda, including Rabitte), so when she is seen kissing Joey, punches are thrown, fighting ensues and the band, which is barely holding it together anyway, falls apart. The girls throughout all hold their own, each one with a great voice and on occasions get their chances to sing, which they do most impressively.

One of my favourite performances came from Joe Woolmer, who plays the bouncer Mickah. He was absolutely superb as the ‘no messing’ character and literally every time he was on stage I was in stitches. For me, he was the icing on a rather delicious cake.

There are quite a few elements to the set and although much of it is set on one level there are scenes taking place upstairs and also ensemble scattered around in balconies and higher up positions. This potentially creates a problem for those faced with an overhang from upper theatre tiers, but I think probably not a lot is missed. I thought the set design was great though – some of it (the Rabbite house, for example) done using trucks which could be easily and quickly wheeled on and off.

At times there was an element of audience participation and there was a real sense of being part of it -on occasion the cast are in the auditorium – and with classic music – songs such as I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Knock On Wood, Mustang Sally and Reach Out I’ll Be There – it is nearly impossible not to join in. What I did enjoy is that although these are all classic hits, the performers in this production very much make them their own. It was hard to stay seated throughout, as my toes (and I could feel others too) were tapping along, so when the opportunity to get up and dance came about at the end, not one person remained in their seat.

Without giving too much more away, every single cast member has clearly worked hard to make this production really impressive. During the interval and at the end I heard only positive comments from the audience. Certainly there was hilarity all the way through, I don’t think I stopped smiling once. If bad language offends I would advise staying away, as it is rife throughout but it really doesn’t bother me in the slightest and apparently didn’t seem to be concerning anyone else either. I can’t find a bad word to say about any of the cast – if I haven’t given them an individual mention here it is simply because I don’t want to go on too much, but they are all super talented and a joy to watch, many of them making their West End debuts. I defy anyone not to be smiling and singing when they leave the theatre.

I absolutely can’t wait for a return visit, and there WILL be one. And another, and more after that…this is a watchable show which I would happily see again and again. And I very much intend to. Do go if you can, it really is great fun and this cast deserve to be seen. I hope this will be sticking around for some time.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx