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Deadly - The Commitments made into West End musical

Published 24/04/2013

One of the most successful Irish films ever released is to be made into a West End musical. Sherna Noah reports on The Commitments' transition from screen to stage

WHEN novelist Roddy Doyle was asked to adapt The Commitments into a musical more than 20 years ago, the Dublin writer dismissed the idea.

Doyle's 1987 book about a group of misfits who start an unlikely soul band in Dublin was made into a hugely successful film, directed by Alan Parker, in 1991.

"There was immediate interest then in doing a musical," Booker Prize winner Doyle said.

"But I don't think I had ever been to a musical and the ones I'd seen on television had never really grabbed my attention much."

"In the house I live in at the moment if The Sound Of Music comes on all the males, including the dog, stand up and walk out while the females stay and cry. It's the same if any of those musicals come on."

Doyle (54), said that he found it "funny and very satisfying" that much of the young cast of the stage show would not have been born when he published his novel.

He said that the musical would reflect the 1980s, when the book is set "without being slavish to it".

"If I was trying to set the story today, a lot of it would fall away immediately because Jimmy Rabbitte would have a smart phone and he'd be able to sit and organise everything he needs to do without coming into contact with anybody and that's the end of the story.

"It's just as well it's set at a time where he has to look for a working payphone... you hope people turn up for rehearsals and you're not getting texts saying 'on way five minutes'."

He said the original film cast were too old to reprise their roles in the stage version.

"We're all mortal and I met a lot of them quite recently. Most of them accept that we're lacking in hair."

Doyle only decided to write the musical some time into the process when he began "answering my own questions" while interviewing other writers for the job.

"I didn't think they were going in the right direction. When I'm reacting like that it means I should do it myself.

"I told my wife 'I'm thinking I might have a bash at the script myself' and she said 'You took your time'."

Much of the cast in Roddy Doyle's The Commitments: The Saviours Of Soul will be making their West End debut.

The musical will be directed by Jamie Lloyd, best known for his work on the critically acclaimed stage production of Macbeth, star-ring James McAvoy.

The musical opens at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue on October 8 with previews from September 21.