Sheffield gets some soul when The Commitments come to town

Brian Gilligan and the West End cast of The Commitments
Brian Gilligan and the West End cast of The Commitments
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Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy is to star in the UK tour of the stage musical The Commitments, coming to the Lyceum, Sheffield in November.

Kevin will star as Jimmy's Da and many of the touring cast have come from the record-breaking show’s two-year run at London’s Palace Theatre. They include Brian Gilligan, who will reprise his starring role of Deco, and Andrew Linnie, who will star as Jimmy Rabbitte.

It is now 30 years since The Commitments first burst from the pages of Roddy Doyle’s best-selling novel.

Roddy Doyle has adapted his novel for the stage show. He said: “The Commitments were born in Dublin, moved to London and will soon be hopping all over the shop. I wrote the novel – invented the characters – in 1986 and it thrills me to think that they will be entertaining audiences throughout the UK and Ireland 30 years later, in 2016.”

Kevin Kennedy won the hearts of the nation when he starred as Curly Watts in Coronation Street. Since leaving Corrie, Kevin has regularly appeared in theatre productions including Chicago, The Rocky Horror Show, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and We Will Rock You.

He said: “After working abroad, I am delighted to be returning to such an iconic musical as The Commitments. It is a pleasure to travel around the country playing to enthusiastic audiences who love this show.”

Brian Gilligan originally played the role of drummer Billy ‘The Animal’ Mooney in the West End production. Several months later, he was overheard singing to himself in the stairwell at the Palace Theatre and blew away the director, leading to him being cast as Deco a few weeks later.

Andrew Linnie was originally part of the West End production’s ensemble but saved the day when the actor playing Jimmy Rabbitte damaged his knee and both of the understudies were unavailable.

Despite not having performed the role before on stage, Andrew stepped up to the plate to take over that the role that evening and received a standing ovation after just a few hours' rehearsals.

He then carried on playing the role for the rest of the week and got great reviews for his performances. After performing the role in the West End, Andrew will now play Jimmy Rabbitte on the UK tour.

Andrew said: “I made my West End debut in this show and couldn’t be more delighted to be returning to play the wonderful music again.”

The Commitmentettes will be played by sisters Amy and Leah Penston, while Christina Tedders will complete the trio.

The Commitments is packed with more than 20 classic soul songs including Night Train, Try A Little Tenderness, River Deep, Mountain High, In The Midnight Hour, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Save Me, Mustang Sally, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Reach Out, Uptight and Knock On Wood.

The show tells 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.

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 for 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 horn-playing legend, the singer has entered Eurovision, the drummer has walked out mid-gig and the saxophone player has dangerous leanings towards a jazz career.

The Commitments is at the Lyceum from November 21-26 and tickets are on sale now. Box office: at the Crucible, online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call 0114 249 6000.