London's West End is developing an Irish lilt.
The Tony Award-winning, Dublin-set musical "Once" is a hit, and on Tuesday producers announced that a long-awaited stage version of Irish soul saga "The Commitments" will open later this year.
Roddy Doyle's exuberant 1987 novel about a bunch of working-class Dubliners who form an unlikely soul band is considered a literary landmark, and was made into a successful 1991 movie. But a stage adaptation has been a long time coming.
Doyle, who has scripted the stage version, says it's partly because the runaway success of "The Commitments" made it "something of a monster" from which the needed a break.
It's also, he admits, partly because he never really liked musicals.
"In the house I live in, if 'The Sound of Music' comes on, all the male members, including the dogs, stand up and walk out," he said. "And the female members stay and cry."
But Doyle changed his mind after seeing shows such as the Frankie Valli musical "Jersey Boys," in which "the music actually drove the story."
"What I loved about it was, the songs were terrific, but the songs didn't interrupt the story and the story didn't interrupt the songs," Doyle said. "That, above all others, nudged me in the direction I wanted to go."
The stage version is set in 1986, the year Doyle wrote the book, in a rough-and-ready Dublin that was later transformed by years of "Celtic Tiger" boom - and then by debt-driven bust.
Doyle said that despite the years of upheaval, the essence of Dublin hasn't changed that much.
"The notion that working-class Dublin had disappeared because people had more money - it doesn't work that way," he said.
Producers promise a show packed with soul classics, although Doyle says the soundtrack is still a work in progress because of "rights issues and experimenting with which songs are right for the story."
Director Jamie Lloyd said the cast - mostly Irish and younger than 21 - will all play their own musical instruments, and the show hopes to retain the scrappy quality of the book - "the way it speaks to the energy and determination of youth."
"Many of them have never been in a play before," Lloyd said of the cast. "There are a couple who've never seen a play before."
Since "The Commitments" was published, Doyle has become one of Ireland's biggest literary stars, author of nine novels including the Booker Prize-winning "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha."
The hero of "The Commitments," Jimmy Rabitte, reappears in his next novel, "The Guts," due out in August. The young would-be impresario has become a 47-year-old father of four with bowel cancer.
Doyle, 54, is sanguine about the fact that a quarter century has passed since the book came out.
Even the movie was more than 20 years ago, and he says none of the cast will be returning for the stage version.
"We're all mortal," he said, "and I think most of them accept the fact that they're lacking in hair."
"The Commitments" opens at the Palace Theatre in London on Oct. 8.
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