This is the first post in my “Restricted West End” project and it was one crazy show! I have absolutely no luck with The Commitments cast – last time I saw the show I was expecting Killian Donnelly as Deco and it was Ian McIntosh (not that I’m complaining, I love Ian and he was fantastic). This time I went expecting Ian McIntosh, who is on for Deco every Tuesday night and Sunday matinee, but it was Alex Tomkins instead. Other changes included John McLarnon as Outspan instead of Matthew Wycliffe; Christopher Fry played Joey instead of Ben Fox and Natalie Hope replaced Stephanie McKeon as Natalie.
My first restricted seat was not a good one. I was in the stalls, row G, seat 28 and instead of a seat in front of me there was a bloody great big pole. The man next to me did say that I could lean over if I wanted and he wouldn’t think I was coming on to him, but that didn’t help much. I was talking to this man about John McLarnon being Scottish and having to put on an Irish accent (which he actually does very well) when the girl in front turned around. “Oh are you talking about John?” We had a great chat about various members of the cast and it took us a few minutes to realise that we did actually follow eachother on Twitter.
As I settled down to watch the show I really had to concentrate – I couldn’t remember the plot exactly and all of the cast changes didn’t help. I loved John McLarnon as Outspan – they’d even given him a huge ginger fringe which stuck out from under his beanie hat and was absolutely hilarious. I loved seeing him back on stage with Mark Dugdale who plays Derek because they get on so well together. I wasn’t sure about Alex Tomkins as Deco – I couldn’t help but compare him to Ian McIntosh and he wasn’t coming off very well. He wasn’t as weird or as funny and, even though it was only my second show, I could tell that he missed a couple of cues and forgot his lines more than once. I don’t think he has a strong enough voice to play Deco; whereas I couldn’t take my eyes off Ian whenever he was on the stage I kept forgetting that Alex was there and, if it hadn’t been for my twitter friend Shannon screaming every time he came on the stage, I wouldn’t really have paid much attention to him. Overall it was a very forgettable performance.
However Denis Grindel, who plays Jimmy, was brilliant. He has a natural confidence and charm and held the show together. I didn’t really enjoy the show as much as I did the first time around – it did seem a bit sloppy at times but I couldn’t tell if that’s because the understudies were under-rehearsed or because I just wasn’t engaging in the story. Another gem was Christopher Fry who was on for Joey. Although it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t the lead – he looked about 20 years younger for starters so all of the “old fellow” jokes fell a bit flat – he created a really likeable character and did the best he could which was pretty damn good.
For me the finale was a bit awkward – it changes into a kind of concert atmosphere but I didn’t know the songs and wasn’t really “feeling it.” Alex Tomkins was doing his best to engage the audience but they didn’t really seem interested and I definitely wasn’t. The show has the potential to be really good but the understudies let it down a bit which is really hard for me to say because I love seeing different people tackling different roles. This only works, however, if they’re really well rehearsed – if the cast aren’t comfortable in the roles they’re playing it makes the audience feel uncomfortable and can ruin a perfectly good show. I’m going to wait a while before I decide whether or not to see the show again – I was left a bit deflated and disappointed afterwards because I know how good the show can be but, this time, it didn’t quite deliver.