Yes, it really has taken me this long to go and see The Commitments! Because the majority of our Sunday would be spent travelling from London to Manchester, we decided to have a “Mothering Saturday” instead. Ever since I booked the tickets in January my Mum had been telling me incessantly that she wanted to see Ian McIntosh as Deco. We had seen Ian make his West End debut in Rock of Ages as Joey Primo, and have followed his career ever since. Ian is now Ray/Ensemble and Alternate Deco in The Commitments (he plays Deco every Tuesday and Sunday evening). I was happy to see the principle Deco Killian Donnelly – I had seen him live as Courfeyrac in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables so I already knew he was a very talented performer.
After a very loud lunch with friends, we headed over to the Palace Theatre – a new theatre for me. That place is a maze! After buying a programme I had a flick through, and at first I didn’t notice the cast list, which was tucked into the front cover. As I pointed out Killian Donnelly to my Mum the slip of paper fell out. I picked it up and had a quick read – “Cast at this performance… Ian McIntosh as Deco.” I couldn’t believe my eyes! Please don’t think that I didn’t want to see Ian as Deco because you are totally wrong, in fact I have booked a Tuesday night performance specifically to see him as Deco. I just could not believe that my Mum had got her way! I reluctantly showed her the cast list and she howled with laughter before showing me a smug smile that didn’t move for the rest of the performance. I was just gobsmacked that all of her “I wish it was Ian” moaning had actually worked!
To cut a long story short, I bloody loved the show. It was more like being at a concert! Ian McIntosh was just incredible – I couldn’t get over the change in him. He was so confident on the stage and his voice was absolutely insane. Mark Dugdale, another ex We Will Rock You cast member, had a much bigger part than I had anticipated and I absolutely loved watching him on the stage – I was lucky enough to see him as “Khashoggi” in We Will Rock You and he has come on in leaps and bounds since then. There were two more familiar faces – John McLarnon who was “Rebel Leader” in We Will Rock You and Brian Gilligan. I loved seeing John on stage again but I couldn’t look at Brian – the last time I saw him was at After Show in November, where he played a game called “Irish gay lick” with a cast member from Once. No, that’s not a typo. I have seen more of that man than I had ever anticipated (I will include one picture below – I didn’t write a blog about that show because I genuinely had no idea how.)
This was not a fun stage door. There was a group of about six screaming, roaring drunk, middle aged women who pounced on any poor soul who came out of the theatre. I cringed as they pawed at Ian and thought about just walking away – I probably would have if Ian hadn’t spotted me and asked me to wait for him. It was great catching up with him but while I was talking to him Brian Gilligan came out of the stage door which made the whole thing quite awkward. I also got a brief hug from John McLarnon who had to run off because he had an appointment to get his phone fixed. I knew from We Will Rock You that Mark Dugdale doesn’t come out in-between shows so, after I’d said goodbye to Ian, me and my Mum walked to The Savoy Theatre for our next show.
I do not have a good history with this theatre. This is where I saw Legally Blonde (aka “my worst nightmare: the musical) and Let it Be (I didn’t even make it to the interval.) Luckily I had already seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels so I knew that this would definitely be a case of third time lucky.
I first saw the show in Manchester when it was in previews (you can read the blog here) so I was excited to see what had changed since then. One thing that I was glad hadn’t changed: the incredible cast. Once again I squealed like a little girl when Robert Lindsay came onto the stage – I can’t help it! John Marquez who plays his trusty companion Andre, was on top form. I noticed subtle little things in his character that I must have missed the first time – he is very understated but, if you pay attention, also very funny. It’s easy to miss his subtle little changes in expression, and his character has an incredible wit that left me cursing myself for not paying enough attention to him before.
Samantha Bond seemed so much more relaxed in her role this time around, as did Rufus Hound. He was having more fun with the role and with the audience and he clearly has a brilliant rapport with Robert Lindsay – they work really well together. One of my favourite parts of the first act was the song “Oklahoma?” performed by Lizzy Connolly who plays Jolene. How she manages to stay in character I will never know – she performs the song with a perfect Oklahoma twang whilst line dancing, jumping into the splits and even firing a gun. She had me in absolute stitches, as did the next song “Ruprecht.” This scene is all about deterring Jolene from wanting to marry Lawrence (Robert Lindsay.) Rufus Hound’s character Freddie poses as Ruprecht, the repulsive younger brother who eventually scares Jolene away. It is an absolutely hysterical number that had me, and the rest of the theatre, crying with laughter.
Another person I didn’t appreciate the first time around is Katherine Kingsley. My God that woman is good. Her voice, her acting, her comedic timing, they’re all absolutely perfect. She performs stunning duets with both Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound and plays her character so flawlessly that you can’t help but fall in love with her goofy, clumsy, ditzy persona.
There is only one thing wrong with this show – I still didn’t see the twist at the end coming! Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen and I was watching out for anything that might give it away, my jaw still hit the floor and I have a feeling if I see the show five times or fifty it will still come as a complete shock, which is a testament to the writers and the performers. I have already booked to see this show a third time and I can’t wait – this is fast becoming my new favourite musical on the West End.