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Roddy Doyle's "The Commitments" finally made into musical

Writer Roddy Doyle, Author of "Oh, Play That Thing" photographed at the Soho Grand Hotel in Manhattan, November 8, 2004. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Writer Roddy Doyle, Author of "Oh, Play That Thing" photographed at the Soho Grand Hotel in Manhattan, November 8, 2004. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - Irish author Roddy Doyle's bestselling novel "The Commitments" is finally being made into a musical, more than 25 years after the heartwarming tale of a group of aspiring soul musicians was first published.

The Booker Prize winner's 1987 story about young working class Jimmy Rabbitte's efforts to form the "finest soul act in Dublin" became a hit film in 1991, but Doyle said he turned down a flood of requests to adapt it into a musical at the time.

"So I kind of ignored it for years and then as my children got older and I began to bring them to the occasional musical ... I began to enjoy a lot of it," 54-year-old Doyle told reporters at a press launch for the musical on Tuesday.

The musical, which Doyle himself has penned, will preview at London's Palace Theatre starting on September 21.

Doyle said musicals such as "Jersey Boys", "Billy Elliot" and "The Producers" captured his imagination and kindled his interest in bringing "The Commitments" to the stage.

"'Jersey Boys' I found very inspiring because I loved the way the music actually drove the story, it wasn't just story followed by a song followed by story," Doyle said.

Tickets for the previews will be half price at 5 pounds ($7.62) each and more than 100,000 tickets for the initial one-year booking period are priced at 10 pounds.

Most of the cast members for a show that will be packed with classic soul songs from the film such as "Mustang Sally" were not even born at the time the novel was set - 1986. Director Jamie Lloyd was only about six at the time.

"I don't know why, but I find that funny and I find it satisfying that the book is still alive and that the story is still alive all these years later," Doyle said.

Doyle added that rumors he was working on a sequel to "The Commitments" were not exactly correct, although his original character Jimmy was making a comeback in new novel "The Guts".

"What is true is that I have a new novel coming out in August and Jimmy Rabbitte, the manager of The Commitments, is the central character, but he's a 48-year-old man and he's not re-forming The Commitments or anything like that at all."

Doyle said the Dublin of 1986 may have changed a little through the years of Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" boom, and later bust, but the greatest obstacle to the relevance of a story in which Jimmy spends most of his time chasing musicians around town was modern technology.

"If I was to try and set the story today a lot of it would fall away immediately because Jimmy Rabbitte would have a smartphone and he would be able to sit and organize everything he needs to do without having to come into contact with anybody and that's the end of the story."

Doyle said he originally did not intend to write the musical himself, but discovered while interviewing other writers that he was answering all his own questions himself and so thought that perhaps he should try himself.

"I kept it to myself and I went home and told my wife that I was thinking of doing the job myself and she said: 'you took your time'".

(Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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