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Calendar Girls as presented by Fun House Theatre Company

Fun House Theatre Company Tullamore 

Calendar Girls, The Musical

1st – 5th May 2024 Esker Arts Centre, Tullamore.

Adjudication Performance 2nd May 2024

Calendar Girls The Musical, a unique and heart-warming production by the Fun House Theatre Company, was a delightful experience with performances from the 1st to the 5th of May 2024 in Tullamore. The newly refurbished Esker Arts Centre's modern setting and top-notch facilities provided a perfect backdrop for the performance. The warm welcome was extended by the front of House Manager Shane Origan and Press Officer Deborah Stenson, acknowledging the audience's crucial role in the show. I was made to feel like part of the theatrical family, adding a personal touch to the experience. 

The Director of this production, Mr Pat McElwain, brought his extensive experience to bear, resulting in an expertly directed show. Mr McElwain's solid understanding of the characters and keen eye for casting was evident from when the cast stepped on stage until the final word. Mr McElwain's ability to balance the comedic and emotional elements of the show was a testament to his skill, beautifully bringing the story to life on stage. Mr McElwain's clever direction seamlessly showcased this production's incredible talent and expertise. The ensemble cast delivered memorable performances, and the characters were magically created and developed with Mr McElwain's experience. It was no surprise that Mr McElwain's direction would be simply incredible and that it most definitely would make an authentic and engaging experience for the audience. And I was right. This production was a resounding success, offering a perfect blend of exceptional performances in a beautifully refurbished venue. Mr McElwain's passion for storytelling and dedication to bringing this heart-warming tale to life are commendable. Along with strong leadership, this show was so unique and full of emotion. Three words come to my mind to describe Mr McElwain's direction in this production. Humour, Heart, and Emotion. 

Shane Farrell, the Musical Director, brought a palpable passion to this role. During the performance, I felt the Orchestra were a little behind the ensemble or could have been moved at a better pace. These instances were rare and mostly noticeable in the chaotic calendar shoot scene which is easily the most frenetic and funniest scene of the evening. So it is understandable. The cohesive and powerful sound produced by the ensemble singing was a testament to a commitment to excellence. His leadership and attention ensured this audience witnessed a memorable performance by the whole company. The ensemble's harmonious and powerful sound showed Mr Farrell's expertise and dedication, leaving a strong and very emotional impression on me and the audience. 

The Choreographer was Chris Corroon. The choreography was captivating in many scenes, adding a considerable, charming, and essential element that significantly enriched the overall production. Mr Corroon's choreography demonstrated a masterful understanding of the musical's themes and characters, seamlessly weaving storytelling into each dance sequence. The choreography complemented the music and lyrics and was a powerful storytelling tool. 

Furthermore, Chris Corroon's choreography and sheer professionalism added energy to the heart wrenching output in parts and fun in others, showcasing the many diverse dance styles that resonated with the audience throughout the show. As a Choreographer, Mr Corroon’s' talent was absolutely instrumental and indeed vital in creating a memorable and engaging theatrical experience for everyone. Mr Corroon, your choreography brought the show to life. As a member of the audience, Mr Corroon’s choreography and gift captivated us and left a lasting impression. And it was also simply a pleasure to meet you, Mr Corroon. Bravo. 

The Stage Manager was Wayne Handy. The sets were simply stunning. So pretty, colourful, and danced in the light; the houses were beautifully painted, the flower cart with a blaze of colour that would light up the darkest of rooms, the set with the little stone wall where John Clarke walked as he left this earth when he passed and his spirit soared off into the sky was so life I was lost for words. The gorgeous sunflowers emblazoning the stage were a visual feast. The projections were simply stunning and ideally strategically placed. They were so immersed in the actual story on the stage that one could easily forget you were not looking out on a gorgeous green, vibrant meadow or that it was John Clarke's spirit soaring off into the light with the cast standing back to the audience watching him, which moved me to tears and was simply an incredible scene. Incredible. These sets, transitions, and attention to detail magnificently brought this story to life. I cannot but only praise the Stage Manager, Wayne Handy, and the superb crew and team involved in creating these sets, which were simply a stunning vision every second of the show. 

The lighting design also played a crucial role in enhancing the overall atmosphere and the story. The lighting design very effectively sets the mood for each scene with gorgeous warm hues, fading lights and relevant spots and contrasts to reflect the emotional journey of many characters. The spotlights, in particular, and washes highlighted beautifully key moments on stage, such as when John Clarke is now in a wheelchair and he rises and starts walking towards the sun; the lighting here was sublime and so moving. The seamless coordination of lighting cues and the strategic use of light and shadow, particularly in Act 1, brought tremendous emotion directly to the show, and then again in Act 2 for the Calendar shoot, which was so clever and brilliantly lit subtly and effectively. 

The sound design was simply superb. Music and dialogue were so clear, and the balance of the sound amplified the performers' voices and musical arrangements, ensuring that every note and lyric resonated throughout the Theatre. A practical and well-balanced sound from each actor and ensemble was superbly made, and the sound was simply breath-taking throughout, especially in the significant Musical numbers and highlights such as “Yorkshire”, “Who Wants A Silent Night”, to and “Dare” the sound which bounced off the walls of the Theatre. 

The costumes, hair, and makeup were again perfect. The Christmas costumes were superb and colourful, a testament to the dedication and artistry of the production team. The attention to detail in the costumes brought each character to life, capturing the essence of their personalities and the period with remarkable accuracy. From the vibrant and quirky attire of the calendar photo shoot to the everyday wardrobe of the characters, the costumes were both appropriate and lovely. 

Colourful and sad, seasonal (Christmas), Spring, the individual characters and personalities of the ladies, all dressed to reflect their varying personalities, were superb and magnificently thought out. 

The hair and makeup design further contributed to the authenticity of the production. The careful consideration of each character's hairstyle and makeup application added depth to their portrayal, allowing the audience to connect with them more personally. The makeup design was awe-inspiring in transforming the actors to fit the age and personality of their characters, adding to the overall believability of the performance.

Additionally, the props used in the musical were meticulously chosen and crafted, enhancing the production's visual appeal and contributing to the seamless immersion of the audience into the story's world. The props were visually striking and served as functional elements that enriched the storytelling, creating a sense of time and place, along with meticulous attention to detail. 

Jay Origan played the part of Chris. Jay's character in this production, which she made of it and brought to it, was nothing short of exceptional. Ms Origan brought a remarkable wit, infectious fun, and fantastic comedic timing to the role, captivating the audience with her vibrant and passionate portrayal of a character deeply devoted to her village and friends time and time again. Her performance was a true standout, as she skilfully balanced the character's humour with genuine emotion. 

Her performance radiated with wit, charm, and magnetic energy that captivated the audience when she stepped onto the stage. Ms Origan brought an unparalleled sense of fun and light-heartedness to the character, infusing each scene with her fantastic comedic timing and a genuine passion for her village and friends. Her portrayal of Chris was a masterclass in comedic delivery, effortlessly drawing out laughter from the audience with her quick wit and infectious humour. Ms. Origan's command of the stage, with her presence and comedic prowess, was genuinely remarkable, making Chris a standout character in every scene she graced. 

Amanda Cunningham played the part of Annie. This exceptional and captivating performance truly brought this gorgeous character of Annie to life on stage. Ms Cunningham’s' portrayal of Annie's persona was beautiful. Ms Cunningham seamlessly moved between moments of vulnerability and strength and optimism (holding out hope for John through the different times of the year of his illness. Her friendship with Chris and Ms Cunningham is a remarkable strength of emotion and sadness of her turmoil of losing her beautiful and adored husband, John. And yet there were some comedic moments filled with wit and charm, where I just burst out laughing as did the rest of the audience with this lady's genuine humour. It was infectious. I cannot but finish and not say that Ms Cunningham’s' portrayal of her more poignant moments was profoundly moving, evoking a sense of empathy for which I had tears. Super. 

Sinead Handy played Ruth. Ms Handy was a confident and determined character, and her unwavering dedication to the cause of creating the calendar shone through every single line of her performance. Ms Handy effectively conveyed her leadership qualities and emotions, and we all watched in awe and empathised with her journey. She had a wonderful stage presence. 

Emma Stowe played the part of Cora. Wow. This young lady brought a brilliant, vibrant, and lively energy to the production. I loved her comedic timing and infectious enthusiasm. Ms Stowe exuded a vibrant and dynamic presence as Cora, capturing the audience's attention with her charisma and wit from the moment she arrived on stage. Fabulous role, Ms Stowe. 

Jenny McCabe played the part of Celia. What a sweet, warm, and nurturing nature Ms McCabe possessed, providing a sense of empathy and compassion within the group of friends. 

Joan White played the part of Jessie. Ms. White brought a real sense of rebellion and free-spiritedness to her performance. Her bold and adventurous personality added a lovely element of unpredictability and excitement to the group dynamic. Ms. White had such a lovely and adventurous spirit and yet such inner turmoil; this role was played superbly by Ms. White, with excellent timing. 

Grace Kinirons played the part of Marie. It was a remarkable performance, filled with emotion, authenticity, and simply a captivating presence on stage. Ms. Kinirons strong stage presence and powerful delivery meant this character shone, leaving a lasting impression on me. 

Carla Carey played the part of Mrs Tea, and Anne O’Sullivan played the part of Mrs Coffee. They are such a comical duo. You reminded me of a double version of Mrs Brown in Father Ted, which is a compliment! Superb facial expression and humour, great costume, your tea trolley was loaded with so much paraphernalia that it was simply fantastic with particular reference to the teapot! 

Joe Steiner played the part of John. Mr Steiner. You broke my heart with your magnificent performance in this beautiful show. Such a gorgeous, charming, friendly young man with a wife you adored and a life you adored, and everyone loved you. The portrayal of the worsening of your illness and nothing working was blindingly emotional and so sad. Yet, Mr Steiner, you still brought comedy to the role, even up to the last few moments in your Santa dressing gown. Your acting was just splendid, and I could reach out and touch your love for Annie. What you made of this character of yours as John Clarke was an honour to watch you. Superb role. When John Clarke died in this production it really felt like someone somewhere turned a light off it had such an impact. 

Cherise O’Moore played Jenny's part. Gorgeous role and beautifully acted. Ms O’Moore delivered an excellent performance. She skilfully portrayed Jenny's emotional complexity, her strength of character, her get up and get on with it personality with a hint of boldness and bravery all in one. With a powerful stage presence, Ms O’Moore delivered a powerful musical performance, and her determination and portrayal of this role were simply a joy to watch with her no-nonsense attitude and great rapport and fun with many of the characters. However, Ms O’Moore came into her own when she arrived for the calendar shoot, and her leadership, easy-going yet authoritative attitude, and organisation brought out the more mature side of Ms O’Moore’s character. And a charming actress. 

Daniel Whelan played Danny's part. Watching Mr Whelan in this role was like watching a comedic maestro at work. His impeccable timing and knack for delivering punchlines with finesse had the audience in stitches. Whether bumbling through a scene or charming his way into the audience's hearts, Danny's performance was a delightful rollercoaster of laughter and amusement. Simply a fantastic performance. What a laugh you gave your audience, Mr Whelan. Brilliant role for you. It was your facial expressions and your side-eye looks that won me over. You were just consistently funny. Super. 

Eoin Kenny played the part of Tommo. Mr Kenny’s interpretation was another comedic tour de force. His ability to infuse the character with an endearing mix of quirkiness and absurdity left the audience roaring with laughter. Mr Kenny’s hilarious and magnificent stage presence and facial expressions made me laugh at the drama. Your drama added a delightful spark to the show, turning even the most mundane moments into uproarious scenes. Superbly played. Bravo.

Declan Finn played the part of Rod. He is Chris’s husband and a true gentleman who loves Chris. He played this role in such a beautiful way as a kind and supportive man. Mr Finn was a source of strength and stability to Chris during the challenges they faced. His relationship with Chris was so well played and yet heart-warming at the same time. He played a gorgeous role. 

Ray O’Hare played the part of Laurence. A nervous disposition and very quiet he worked the stage naturally and in the calendar shoot scene was excellent in his quirkiness and slight eccentricity and yet a truly lovely gentleman. Lovely role played very well. 

John Bourke played the part of Dennis Jessies husband, and Paul Spencer played the part of Colin who is Celia’s husband. These were two cracking roles indeed for these gentlemen, lovely bit of camaraderie and banter and a bit of shock what the wives were planning for the Calendar this roles although small were yet very significant and well played throughout. Good stage moments and great ease of movement around the stage. Two strong roles. Well done Gentlemen.

The chorus in "Calendar Girls The Musical" brought extraordinary talent and skill to their performance, enriching the production with seamless harmonies, impeccable choreography, and dynamic stage presence. Their ability to transition effortlessly between diverse musical styles and emotional tones captivated the audience, drawing them deeper into the story's heart. The chorus's impressive vocal prowess and nuanced physical expressions conveyed the essence of each scene with remarkable depth and authenticity, creating a truly immersive and captivating theatrical experience. Their collective dedication and artistry elevated the overall impact of "Calendar Girls The Musical," leaving a lasting and memorable impression on all fortunate enough to witness their exceptional performance.

It was a joy to be with you all on the evening of the 2nd of May. This team is a team that works. Stay together. Build together and continue loving each other as you all visibly do through thick and thin, as well as your dark days and clouds. Remember, there are always sunflowers and rainbows ahead, no matter how far away they seem. I will say goodbye to each of you on what has been a glorious emotionally filled performance with the words of YOUR song “Dare”………

“Find the rules you knew, and break them, Find the roads you know, don’t take them, Whatever is telling you no,  Whatever is changing your mind, There's courage you’ll only ever find.  If you Dare, just for once, don’t stop and stare.  Spread your wings and trust the air.  When you feel you’ve gone too high, keep climbing…  If you dare, take a run and leave the ground. 
Take a second and look down; see a thousand arms are there – if you dare. There are coastlines in the heart. If you dare,  You won't be ready if you don’t start if you dare, Set a course for off-the-charts if you dare.

You dared. And it was beautiful. 

Those who dare sometimes Win. And you certainly DID! 

Thank you all for giving me the gift of watching you dare tonight. Congratulations. 

Caroline Daly Jones

Sullivan Adjudicator 2023 / 2024

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