Andrew Linnie plays Jimmy as The Commitments heads to Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre (January 31- February 4).
The show received universal critical acclaim following its London world premiere.
The night features more than 20 soul classics performed live on stage 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, Knock On Wood, I Can’t Turn You Loose and more.
How did you become involved with The Commitments?
I first auditioned for the show in 2013 when it was opening in the West End. I was still in college at the time and would have been happy to be involved in any capacity, so when I landed the role of one of the characters in the band itself I was thrilled.
Do people need to know about the film if they are coming to see the show?
No, I think a good piece of theatre needs to stand on its own two feet, so although fans of the book or the film will recognise a lot of the moments and lines in the show, people who don't know it can enjoy it just the same.
Why is The Commitments a show that seems to resonate with people?
Because it celebrates the mundane everyday stuff, it's not about epic wartime romance or historical figures, it's about a bunch of kids trying to escape the poverty trap with music. They're very ordinary people and as such are very easy to relate to, they exist everywhere not just in Dublin.
Is it a portrait of a particular era and what is The Commitments about?
It is a bit of a homage to Dublin in the 1980s, though the themes are universal. Jimmy Rabbitte and his mates try to form a soul band and bring a new sound to Dublin, and in turn do something with their lives.
Tell me about the character you play?
I play Jimmy, whose idea it is to put the band together, and he pulls all the strings. It's his job to try and keep the show on the road when the egos clash and the strong personalities within the band start to emerge.
And how does Jimmy develop in the show?
I think he's very naive at first, and although he's got lots of drive and ambition he's not aware of the pitfalls of running a large group. He's far more cynical by the end, and although he's still very knowledgeable and passionate about music, he's probably decided that it wasn't for him after all.
Tell us a bit about your history performing in The Commitments.
I made my West End debut with the show when it opened in September 2013, playing Dean Fay, the sax player in the band who spirals off on his own path to a jazz career. I played that role for over two years. During that time at one point both the lead actor playing Jimmy and the two understudies were off due to illness or injury and I was given the call and asked if I'd play Jimmy that night
How was that experience for you?
It was really exciting, but it was very last minute. I'd never actually had a rehearsal in the part, so I was too busy trying to remember where to stand so I wouldn't be hit by the set as it moved around me. It's one of those things where adrenaline takes over and although it was fun and exciting I don't really remember a huge amount of the first show I did as Jimmy. Thankfully I got to play the role for another few nights that week and I had a chance to enjoy it more, plus I now get to play him for the whole tour so the risk paid off!
What makes the show so strong musically?
That Stax and Motown back catalogue from the 1960s is incredibly strong, and they're tunes that everyone knows even if they sometimes don't know the names of the artists or songs. They're so well written, simple and catchy hooks, solid beats. They always get the crowd moving. That combined with the Irish and 1980s flavours of the show (including the opening where Jimmy's mates are in a failing synth combo) provide just the right mix I think.
Have you worked principally in musical theatre?
Mostly, yes. However in this show Jimmy is a character who can't sing, that's why he needs the others around him to make things happen. So I feel sometimes like a character from a play stuck in a musical.
How did you get into this career, have you always wanted to perform?
Well I was originally going to be a pilot but performing was always in the picture, I was thrown onto a stage at five years old. I just never considered it a realistic choice, there are so many good performers out there. After university I auditioned for drama school, more out of hope than expectation, and got in first time. I really wasn't expecting it but I haven't looked back since.
Have you been to Southampton before? And are you looking forward to performing at the Mayflower?
I have been to Southampton but haven't performed at the Mayflower before, so that's very exciting, it's a brilliant venue.
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