The Commitments is the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians and friends into an amazing live act, the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. The show follows the journey of two members of a frustrated synthesizer band – the opening scene we find them playing but being ignored in a shop window – who turn to Jimmy, the local music expert, for help.
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. And so the story unfolds…
At the time of the interview Killian Donnelly was playing the lead role of Deco in The Commitments at The Palace Theatre, and he recently took time out to answer a few questions about himself and being in the show.
You are in the cast of The Commitments. How excited were you when you were found out that the show was going to open in the West End in a world premiere?
Very excited. I couldn’t believe it when I got the role. I was lucky enough to be involved with the workshop nearly 2 years ago so when I got a call about the show I knew it was something I definitely wanted to try for. Definitely the biggest thing to date of my career. To open in the West End in an original show and to create a role, a proper dream ticked off the bucket list.
How nerve-wracking or enjoyable was the audition process?
The audition process was nerve-wracking in the usual sense. Waiting for your turn, walking through the door. But the actual audition itself was the most exciting one I’ve ever done. It was putting the band together so therefore the band members kept chopping and changing. I got to sing with 3 different versions of “The Commitments”. Hearing that live music in that space was epic. I didn’t want it to end.
You are playing the lead role of Deco. Can you tell us about him and how he fits into the storyline?
Deco is an obnoxious, crude, big headed dope but loveable. He’s got the soulful singing voice that Jimmy Rabbitte needs for the band. The problem is he’s just so difficult to work with. But the venues they play, the crowds love him. I’ve also enjoyed trying to find out what Deco gets out of this situation. Regardless of being in the limelight and performing to screaming crowds, I’ve enjoyed finding the heart of the character and making him more than “just a prick”.
Do you have a favourite song in the show?
“Papa was a rollin stone”. I’d never heard this song before and therefore it has just been the most amazing buzz singing it every night with the band. The audiences love it and it’s got so much energy.
Do you know how the name ‘The Commitments’ was arrived at?
We asked Roddy this in rehearsals and he said it was never a eureka moment but that it just seemed to work. He definitely wanted “THE” at the start. He had another name but it didn’t work (and I can’t remember what it was) but he said “THE COMMITMENTS” was bold and strong and had an impact.
Roddy Doyle wrote the novel that the show is based on. What feedback have you had from him about the show?
He’s loving it. I asked him before opening night as they were rehearsing a scene on stage. I said “Are ya happy?” and he said that it has gone above and beyond what he expected. He started to talk about small moments in the show that are so emotional and have such an impact. He seemed genuinely happy and that’s exactly what you want.
You are a person that likes to have fun and make fun things happen. How much are you enjoying being in The Commitments?
I’m loving every minute of it. I’m getting paid to go on stage and play and sing this music with this cast every night. It’s just brilliant. All through rehearsals we’ve been laughing and joking and long may it continue.
Apart from yourself, is there a ‘comedian’ in the cast and who is it?
Ben Fox who plays Joey “The Lips” Fagan. He has me in stitches and he doesn’t mean to. I love the man and laugh AT him. He just is the funniest man I’ve ever met and if he was reading this he’d be laughing.
Why should everyone get along to see The Commitments?
It’s got a great story, very funny, incredible sets and the best music. If you want a great piece of theatre and to laugh your head off and have a great night; come see The Commitments.
How are you managing to chill out while having a busy show schedule?
I’m spending my days resting my voice because the sing is huge. I’ve a lot of cups of tea and steam a lot. When I say resting my voice that means shutting up and playing on the computer
Have you any message for those following your career, including your many Twitter followers?
Thank you so much to all of you. When I’m sick or not feeling the best, your stage door chats and Tweets really make a difference. The support is very much appreciated and yis are all gorgeous x
Many thanks Killian and very best wishes to you and the cast of The Commitments.
Friday 1st November 2013