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Michael Collins as presented by Gorey Musical Society

Michael Collins as presented by Gorey Musical Society Date of Adjudication: Wednesday 10th April 2024. A very good achievement of...

Michael Collins as presented by Gorey Musical Society Date of Adjudication: Wednesday 10th April 2024.  A very good achievement of Director, Stephen Acton, with this production was the crystal clear parallel he drew between the story of Michael Collins and the story of Cathleen Ni Houlihan. This was the first time I have watched the show and fully grasped the link between the two, and the true relevance of the Abbey Players, performing their scenes as Collins reads the play to Joe Emmet. The contribution that such clarity added to the story was remarkable.   Yeats himself, had he seen it, would have been delightfully flattered. More importantly, it showed Stephen Acton’s insight and the thorough exploration he had done on the text.   The show visually and technically corresponded with the mood and atmosphere of the drama, a dark time in Irish history, played in dark and foreboding tones. The set was beautifully constructed, with its raised playing area up centre, used as the Abbey Theatre stage, among other things, managed by Stage Manager Paul Doran. The set was beautifully painted, and the screen centre allowed for good location images and news reel photographs to be shown throughout the production. The bleedings stones in the first scene were a very effective touch.  Costumes were similarly in keeping with the general tone. Military attire, day outfits of the working people, and the sharper suits of the politicians, were all totally suitable and in order, reflecting the era of the show. Where necessary, wigs and hairpieces were good and appropriate, and make up seemed natural. What made a big difference to the visuals of the show was the wealth of weaponry, and other appropriate and well-sourced props essential for the story. There was so much good work done on detail.  Musical Director, Conor McCarthy, used excellent keyboard effects to give the score that true Celtic flavour, supported by a very fine orchestra who played with good passion and strong rhythmic awareness. At all times, they were a fine accompaniment to the action, never over powering the vocals from the stage. Those vocals were further testament to a score well rehearsed and well-performed, by a very impassioned chorus. With so many high-achieving soloists in the principal line, this show was a musical delight.  That he had a look, from a distance, not unlike the Big Man himself, was certainly a benefit to Jordan Bass being convincing as Michael Collins, but it was his acting that really sealed the deal. There was a real fire and a passion in his delivery, and not for one second would you have doubted his commitment to his cause. Neither would you have doubted his commitment to Kitty Kiernan, and the tragedy of their relationship was very well-played, as was his fractured friendship with Harry Boland. But it was his exchanges with De Valera that were particularly strong and brought out his true character. If the real Michael Collins could have sung, I’m sure he would have been happy to have had a voice as good as Jordan’s.  As Kitty Kiernan, April Kelly looked and sounded excellent, in a role that didn’t really stretch her to the limits of her acting abilities. She managed the love-triangle situation very comfortably, and despite the sincerity of her love for Collins, her grief at the demise of Boland was palpable. Beautifully expressive and relaxed on the stage. Chris Currid gave a wonderful performance as Harry Boland, joyous in his love for Kitty and in his friendship with Collins, but the strength of his acting was best illustrated with his bitterness at being betrayed by the two people he loved the most, and through it all, his vocals were sublime.  Having enjoyed the performances of Ronan P. Byrne in comedy roles in the past, it was refreshing and enlightening to see him in the far more serious role of Eamon De Valera. He did a great job of achieving a physical resemblance to the former President, and in capturing his somewhat dour countenance. He played this role strongly enough for me to dislike him intensely be the shows end.  Michael O’Gorman, in the role of Joe Emmet was, for me, the performance of the night. In a show where darkness and foreboding dominates much of the action, Joe Emmet was the touch of lightness that relieved the tension. It was the sheer sense of good-natured decency that made his character so heart-warming. It combined a loyal and passionate man with an almost child like sincerity, and Michael played it superbly. His casual, almost off-hand delivery of some very funny lines and reactions was slick and brilliant. When Collins died, it was Emmet for whom my heart ached the most.  Thanks to good direction, as mentioned, the characters of Bridget (Jennifer Lee), Peter (John Young), Delia (Laura Doyle), Michael (Thomas Furlong) and Mother Ireland (Marion Murphy, were much more relevant and beautifully realized by the performers. Apart from their fine Yeats characters, they contributed so efficiently throughout the rest of the action.  There were other worthy contributions, from Justin Grimes as Cathal Brugha, Rónán O’Dubhghaill as Arthur Griffith, Paudie Breen as The Viceroy, Maria Forrest, Aine Kinch and Megan Mitten as Kitty’s sisters, Brian Cooney as The Volunteer and Zarah Kelly as Countess Markievicz.  The chorus were very strong in delivery of their vocals, giving passion to their lyrics, and even stronger as a physical acting presence throughout the show. They were particularly impressive in the civil war scenes, reacting with great authenticity to the shootings and in the battles.  Michael Collins is more of a mood piece than a dance show, and while the dance numbers were limited, Choreographer, Megan Lopez, got the balance just about perfect, by not over choreographing the show. The touches of Irish ballet here and there were delightful, and the formal dance when Collins was in England was well-designed and nicely performed. but for the most part, the choreography consisted of well-organized chorus movement and well presented pictures. The men’s working song, was very effectively performed,  The lighting of the show was very good. Time had obviously been taken to plot with care, making sure that all the important dramatic scenes were well highlighted, while still allowing for dark shadowy atmospheres, with good subtle use of colours. The effective use of haze helped to create some lovely pictures. The projections were also very clear and well used. There were no problems with the sound system, and the timing of sound effects, gunshots, etc, was very good.  I’m quite sure the people of Gorey, and the visitors from other societies, really enjoyed the passion that emanated from the stage at this wonderful production of Michael Collins. I’m indebted to you all for making me appreciate the show more than I have in the past. Great work, Gorey. Peter Kennedy Gilbert Adjudicator 23/24 Photos by Darragh Carroll // Thomas Clare

Happy Days as presented by Enniscorthy Musical Society

ENNISCORTHY MUSICAL SOCIETY “HAPPY DAYS” A NEW MUSICAL Colaiste Bride, Enniscorthy Co Wexford 2nd to 6th April 2024 Adjudication...

ENNISCORTHY MUSICAL SOCIETY “HAPPY DAYS” A NEW MUSICAL Colaiste Bride, Enniscorthy Co Wexford 2nd to 6th April 2024 Adjudication Performance  5th April 2024 It was a joy to arrive in Colaiste Bride Enniscorthy for their production and Irish Premiere of  “ Happy Days: A New Musical.” The welcome I received was so charming, warm, and genuine that it took my breath away. From the moment I arrived at the production, I was met with a warm welcome and a level of care that truly made me feel valued as a member of the audience. Thank you to Tina Doyle, as chairperson, an exceptional leader at the helm. Overall, the front-of-house team was a shining example of what it means to provide exceptional service and care, and their efforts were truly appreciated. Thank you for the opportunity to experience such an excellent production and to interact with such a phenomenal team.  The Director was Ms Imelda McDonagh. Ms. McDonagh's production was a genuinely uplifting and engaging experience from beginning to end. I immediately loved this show, and Ms McDonagh's direction hugely contributed to this success. For instance, her lighting and sound in the opening scene created a captivating atmosphere. Her direction was characterized by stunning attention to detail and an exceptional ability to elicit the best performances from this superb cast. The energy and enthusiasm of the performers were palpable, and Ms. McDonagh's direction allowed each of them to shine in their respective roles. One of the things that truly stood out to me was Ms McDonagh's use of the stage. Bringing the cast to the outside circle on the stage in front of the Orchestra created excellent space and allowed the cast to move even more freely wrapped around the Orchestra and Musical Director. I can still see it in my mind. I loved it. Ms. Imelda McDonagh's direction of this Irish Premiere of "Happy Days," A New Musical, was a triumph.  Mr. Kevin Kennedy was the Musical Director. This gorgeous musical direction was not just a good sound and a technical feat but a source of inspiration and emotion for us, the audience. Mr Kennedy's handling of the music and his orchestra was stunning, and the sound was a feast for the ears. His talented orchestra created such a beautiful, warm sound from beginning to end. It enhanced beautifully the many musical numbers in this production with numbers such as “Snap,” a lively and upbeat number that perfectly captured the energy of the scene, and “Malachi’s”. This heartfelt ballad brought tears to my eyes. “Message in the Music,” a powerful ensemble piece that underscored the show's themes, “Run,” a fast-paced and exciting number that had the audience on the edge of their seats, and the glorious “Hot Love,” a show-stopping finale that left the audience cheering. Once again Mr Kennedy, you shone.  I was thoroughly impressed by the astute and igniting energy of the choreography. Mr James Dobbs, the Choreographer, and the cast did an outstanding job of bringing the musical numbers to life. Their work was visually splendid and absolutely a highlight of the show. For instance, the choreography in the bigger dance numbers was a perfect blend of energy and precision, showcasing the cast's talent and the choreographer's creativity.  From the first number, Mr Dobbs' choreography set the tone for the rest of the production. “Legend In Leather”, a high-energy number that perfectly captured the rebellious spirit of the show, “Dancing on the Moon”, a whimsical and joyful number that had the audience tapping their feet, and “Run”, a fast-paced and exciting number that had the audience on the edge of their seats, were only a couple of numbers in many where the choreography burst on to the stage. The dancers moved with precision and grace, perfectly aligning with the music. Mr Dobbs' use of space was also noteworthy; he used the entire stage to create visually stunning dance numbers that were entertaining and engaging.  The Stage Manager for this production was Naoise O’Connor. The sets were clever and effective and perfectly complemented the cast's performances. The attention to detail was remarkable, and every prop and set piece was strategically placed to create a cohesive and visually appealing design. The American Diner of the 50s 60s was the main set and it genuinely looked the part. Together with seating booths and appropriate props adorning the diner it truly was fabulous. The set changes were seamless and executed with precision and efficiency, ensuring the audience was never taken out of the moment. Other scenes were played on the aprons , like the workshop or meeting points and these were also cleverly done.  The lighting was also a standout feature of the production. The lighting design was carefully crafted to enhance the mood and emotion of each scene, and it was incredibly influential in doing so. The use of colour and intensity was very good, and the lighting transitions were smooth and seamless and never detracted from the overall experience. The lighting was a critical factor in creating the immersive and emotionally engaging experience that the show provided, especially downstage left and downstage right in the more miniature scenes, with some gorgeous moments throughout that were so well executed.  The was simply outstanding. The sound effects were perfectly timed and executed, bringing fantastic realism to the production. The music was flawlessly integrated into the show, perfectly complementing the cast's performances. The sound quality was crystal clear, never overpowering the performances or the dialogue.  Overall, the production team did an excellent job creating a visually stunning and wonderful experience for the audience without going over the top. The attention to detail and seamless execution of the technical presentation of the production massively contributed to the production's overall success.  The costumes were simple yet effective and helped bring the characters to life. They were carefully selected to match the characters and the period.  The hair and makeup were also well done. The design was carefully crafted to match each character's personality and style, and it was evident that much thought and effort had gone into each character's look. The hair and makeup were a great example of how even the most minor details can contribute to the overall success of a production. The props as mentioned were very good, they were carefully chosen to match the scene and the period, and the attention to detail was evident. The props were used effectively throughout the production.  Michael McKenny played the part of Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli. Mr McKenny looked the part and brought great energy and charisma to the role. His chemistry with Michaela White, who played Pinky, was palpable, and they looked great together on stage.  Mr. McKenny's performance was strong overall, with some lovely moments, such as “Heartbeat” with Fonzie and Chachi and Aaay’mless” with Pinky, and the Car Hops were top-class. Still, there were moments where his voice could have been more vital to convey the emotion of certain scenes a little better. “Dancing On The Moon” with Pinky was slightly weaker in tone and sound compared to the other numbers. “Guys Like Us” in contrast was sung beautifully and brought the house down! Mr McKenny looked the part, dressed the part, and delivered a solid performance, which was an integral part of the success of this gorgeous show.  Michaela White played the part of Pinky Tuscadero. This performance was superb. I loved Ms White in this role, and she consistently showcased her fabulous vocal talent. This vocal was excellent. Her arrival on stage, singing “The Pinks In Town” with the Pinkettes, left me and the audience spellbound. Additionally, Ms White’s stage presence was commanding, as she moved with confidence and grace, demonstrating unwavering self-assurance on stage as she strutted her stuff with confidence and musicality. Throughout the production, Michaela's portrayal of Pinky Tuscadero was among the most vital parts of the show. Ms White's technical proficiency and creative instincts made for a fabulous performance that left a lasting impression. It was an absolute pleasure to witness Ms Whites’ talent, and I sincerely looked forward to each time this young lady arrived on stage to sing, dance, act, or strut! Great performance, Ms White, one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Every second.  Ryan Kavanagh played Richie Cunningham's part. What a talented young gentleman with a fabulous stage presence and a gorgeous voice. Mr Kavanagh's performance in this role was super with his gorgeous stage presence, acting skills, and vocal range. I looked forward to each time he came on stage and was captivated. The vocals in “The Thing About The Girls” with Chachi, Potsie, and Ralph were superb, and “Romeo Midnight” with the Dialtones was a true highlight of the show. Overall, Mr. Kavanagh's portrayal of Richie Cunningham was a standout performance. This was a fabulous role for him.  Teresa Buckley played the part of Marion Cunningham. Firstly, I have never heard Ms Buckley sing as well as she did in this production. A simply marvellous vocal with the trio between Pinky and herself and Joanie, “What I Dreamed Last Night” was most definitely one of the many highlights of this show where her vocal shone from on high; it was so strong, so heartfelt, and a gorgeous number to boot, it was a highlight vocally of the show without question. Ms Buckley brought this role to a level of authenticity and sincerity that was truly remarkable. Her interactions with the other characters were natural and believable, and she had a way of making the audience feel like they were a part of the story. Ms. Buckley's performance as Marion Cunningham was a delight. Her acting was also superb, with gorgeous costume, hair, and makeup, and Ms Buckley glided around the stage like a second home. Ms Buckley, I look forward to seeing you on stage again. Bravo.  Keith Flanagan played Howard Cunningham / Elvis. Mr Flanagan was a standout performer, and his portrayal of the dual roles of Howard Cunningham and the Elvis scene was exceptional. His comedic timing was remarkable, and his jokes and antics had the audience in stitches throughout the show. His singing was equally impressive, and his powerful and dynamic voice was a true highlight of the production. His portrayal of Howard Cunningham was full of heart and sincerity, and he got a sense of authenticity to the engaging and moving role. And when he took on the role of Elvis, he truly brought the King back to life. “Leopards Are We” and “The Plaque” were fabulous. I loved you in these roles, Mr Flanagan. A memorable highlight was your magnificent portrayal of the King, Elvis. Fantastic performance.  Emily Kelly played the part of Joanie Cunningham—Aww, a sweet character and a lovely role that greatly suited Ms. Kelly: gorgeous stage appearance and the most ladylike of manners and costumes. Ms Kelly was captivating and brought tremendous energy to the stage. From the moment she started singing, her vocals were excellent .  With gorgeous costumes and an adorable character, it was a pleasure to be in the audience and watch Ms Kelly excel herself in this role. You brought the part of Joanie Cunningham to life, and I loved you for it.  Joshua Higginbotham played the part of Charles “Chachi” Arcola. He was a delightful character, a cool dude, and one of the dream team with Richie, Potsie, and Ralph. This was a delicate part for this young gentleman, his first in Enniscorthy Musical Society, and boy, did you make a great team, great fun, fantastic energy, and excellent side looks and comedic timing, Mr Higginbotham; you were just perfectly cast in this role.  John Donohoe played Ralph Malph. Again, it's a brilliant role. As a bunch of friends, chaps, you were just awesome. Mr. Donohoe, you are a fine actor with a gorgeous stage presence that ensures you command attention in your acting ability. It is so good, and this role was funny, acted well, had great comedic moments (consistently!), and had great costumes. Exceptionally well done on your part in this production, Mr. Donohue. And you looked great. Bravo. Niall Martin superbly played the part of Warren “Potsie” Webber. Your timing in this show was simply class. And to quote your own words, you dazzled us with your moves!!! Super role, and I wish you many, many more successful productions in your life and the life of theatre, as you most certainly have the talent.  Lorcan Dunne played the lovely part of Arnold. A sweet soul, gorgeous movement around the stage, no stranger to it, and a character that I warmed to immediately with your lovely dulcet tones, your pottering around the stage, your hat, your connection with the customers in the diner, your manner, and mostly – your wisdom shone and beamed down to us in the audience. The Malachi’s! Where do I start!!! The Malachi’s - Murt Murphy played Myron “Count” Malachi. Pat Murphy played the part of Jumpy Malachi. Lads, I can sincerely say I have not laughed as much in a long time as I did every single second and time you both “launched” yourself on stage! You were indeed the perfect photobomb in each scene! You were simply class. It was so funny, with such fabulous timing, wit, and camaraderie, that I could go on! The stage was like a skating rink for you both, and you gracefully “skidded” around it with aplomb and drama, bringing tears of laughter to pour down my face every time you looked at each other (or anybody else!!) , or spoke or sang!! Simply jaw-achingly funny, and I loved you. Costumes were merely a scream. You really must have had a ball in this role. Your song The Malachi’s in Act 1 was so side-splittingly funny when you brought the house down when you finished. I immediately checked my program to see if there was a Reprise, and to my absolute delight, there was indeed a Reprise in Act 2!! You were both superb and a massive success, and I wish more of you were in this production. You played a blinder. A natural tonic. Bravo!!!!  Richard Mullen played the part of Leopard Manny Moon / Bully. Mr Mullens's first appearance with Enniscorthy Musical Society, this role was superbly played. Again, excellent timing and interactions on stage with the other characters were always very entertaining. One-liners, great stage appearance, and costume all added up to a perfect role for you, well done!  Frank Kehoe played Leopard Mac Gates. A larger-than-life personality, you played this part with gusto. However, I also loved your quieter moments in this show, and you again looked great in this role. You played a gorgeous role, had a great costume, and had a lovely stage presence. Well done.  Hannah Roche played the part of Lori Beth Allen. Richie Cunningham’s' girlfriend was a lovely role played by Ms. Roche. There is no such thing as a minor role, and Ms. Roche's character was a key to the overall story in this delightful musical and played it very well with prettiness and a smile that lit up the stage. It is very well cast.  James Dobbs played the little cameo of James Dean opposite Elvis. It was a great scene that reminded the audience of that era. Well done. I mention the Dial- tones under their heading as they deserve one. Ryan Kavanagh, as Richie, John Donohoe as Ralph, Niall Martin as Potsie and Joshua Higginbotham as Chachi. This quartet was so in tune, so melodic, with such a gorgeous balance of harmonies that even now, they stand out in my mind. “Romeo Midnight” in Act 1 was simply stunning musically. What a gorgeous blend of beautiful voices and harmony, similar to a barbershop quartet.  This Chorus showcased their incredible vocals as a group and the hours and hours they gave as a Chorus to bring this show to life paid huge dividends. This Chorus lifted the show to the highest sound, harmony, and balance levels. Each time they sang, they brought a genuinely infectious energy and enthusiasm to the stage. The sheer number of voices in the chorus was impressive, yet they were always in perfect synchronization, creating a beautiful and powerful sound that resonated throughout the audience. Highlights to mention but a few, as there were many, include “Welcome to Wisconsin,” a glimpse of what was to come with this Chorus, “Message in the Music,” and “Maybe It Time To Move On.” “Ordinary Hero,” and last but not least, in any way, the gorgeous Finale. Very well done to you all.  Keep singing, keep performing, and keep being part of the incredible team that you are. To quote the words from YOUR song, “Run”. You are a fantastic team that has encapsulated resilience and positivity in bucketloads. The words “Run” encourage us to face challenges with courage, strength, hope, and joy. We may not be able to control every aspect of our lives, but we can choose how we respond to the obstacles we encounter. A huge congratulations to every one of the team on and off stage for a fabulous evening’s entertainment. Bravo ! CAROLINE DALY JONES  ADJUDICATOR SULLIVAN 2023 / 2024 Photos by Peter Gaynor

The Little Mermaid as presented by Avonmore Musical Society

The Little Mermaid as presented by Avonmore Musical Society: Date of Adjudication: Friday, 5th April 2024. The Little Mermaid has become...

The Little Mermaid as presented by Avonmore Musical Society:   Date of Adjudication:  Friday, 5th April 2024.  The Little Mermaid has become popular with Musical Societies around the country, not only because it has a great family audience appeal, but also it is musically beautiful, throws up a great range of principal roles, and there’s enough good chorus work to make it appealing to any company. With a Disney show, there is a certain expectation, particularly among children in the audience, that characters are presented in a very specific way, with specific character traits, and those kids will know the story better than most, which is why director, David Hennessy’s attention to detail pays dividends with a show like this. David has a very safe pair of hands when it comes to direction, showing good attention to detail and using the stage very well. With this Avonmore show, all was in good order and beautifully presented.  Musical Director, Naoimh Penston, led a very accomplished band in providing a wonderful accompaniment to the show, which rattled along at a very pleasing pace. There were good swells in the music to enhance the moments of magic and spectacle, and great tenderness in the romantic pieces. Good tempi and precise rhythms would also have been a benefit to choreographer, Martina Lynch, who, on this occasion, had the added problem of coping with dancers on rollers in some of her routines, which she achieved very successfully. She did very good work with the mersisters throughout, and Under The Sea was the choreographic exhibition piece of the show. Elsewhere good movement and some lovely pictures were achieved, and I loved and appreciated the use of some of the youngest members of the cast alongside the adult chorus, as fish and jellyfish, etc. This was lovely work.  The standard set of costumes for this show are well-designed and very spectacular, rich in variety and delightfully colourful. They were worn well by the cast, and everyone’s appearance was enhanced by very effective make-up and wigs when required. The work that must have gone into Sebastian alone must have taken considerable time. Visually, the whole show was quite beautiful.  Helping to recreate the Disney magic of the movie, was the use of stunning projections on the full-screen background to the stage. These were combined with nicely painted stage flats and some excellent set pieces, particularly the thrones and the lovely arrangement for Ariel’s secret store of artefacts. Scene changes were carried out with minimum fuss, by cast members and/or rather fish-like stage crew, all under the watchful eye of Stage Manager, Barry Ryan. The spectacle of the scenery was enhanced by very good lighting that made use of well plotted moving heads, nice isolations, and excellent colour mixes. There were also many good visual effects, lightening, etc, that were all very nicely handled. Sound quality was good, barring a couple of late cues, but the balance between stage and orchestra was very good, and sound effects were well handled.  From the youngest to the oldest, and in characters ranging from Sailors to all manner of fish and sea creatures, the chorus made a wonderful contribution to the overall production of this show, both from a physical point of view and as a vocal ensemble. Principally, the show was excellent. Ellie Willoughby made a very enchanting Ariel, with a great look and an even better voice, which is, of course, the main requirement for the role. She captured the innocence and  the inquisitive mind of the dreamer, and brought it all beautifully to life, and although the romance of the show is pure, cheesy, Disney, she played it with great sincerity. Likewise, Kevin Macken as Eric, gave a spirited performance as the Prince in search of that someone special, full of dreams and expectations. His vocals were very secure and his nature always most pleasing.  Amy Penston looked more stunning than evil as Ursula, but this was a dynamic performance, played with syrupy, pseudo-sweetness in the early scenes and transforming into a disturbingly dark and demonic fish-breath as the story unfolds. This was top-class character building, combined with an exceptional vocal power.  There was an air of authority about Gavin Molony in the role of King Triton, vocally strong and secure, and robust, but ultimately fair and compassionate in his manner. Very well-attired, and very well-played.  Paudie Breen was almost unrecognizable as the bright red crab, Sebastian, except that his talent and comedy shone through the awesome disguise. This was a performance of stature, delightfully silly, but also sentimental. His delivery of ‘Under The Sea’ was very strong. Tomás Byrne looked like a seagull who’d had a rough night on the tiles, creating an eccentric and unkempt Scuttle, who made the most of a nicely delivered ‘Positoovity.’  A most delightful 8-year-old star in the making, by the name of Eva Belle Bradshaw, took to the stage and wowed the audience as the adorable Flounder. With a smile that would melt the hardest heart, she acted beautifully and sang with confidence, and looked like she was born for the stage. Bravo, Eva.  Not quite as young, and not nearly as beautiful, Robert Donnelly was nevertheless quite loveable as affable, old, Grimsby, looking after the welfare of the Kingdom and Prince Eric in particular. Rob gave a warm, sincere, and most pleasing interpretation of the role. Izabella Wong and Patrick Bracken teamed up to play Flotsam and Jetsam, the slithery servants of Ursula, and did so with sleazy success and comical codology.  As Chef Louis, Aaron Tierney started out like Gino D’Acampo, and ended up as venomous as Gordon Ramsay, in his quest to serve up a tasty plate of Crab. A very nicely presented character, with good vocals in Les Poisson.  Connie Tobin as Aquata, Anna Kenny as Atina, Olivia Connell as Andrina, Leah Byrne a Allana, Holly Prestage as Arista and Róisín Vigors as Adella, jointly known as The Mersisters, kind of like an underwater Delta Nu sorority, performed very well together as a team, while still achieving good individuality, all of them being extremely good actors, singers, and dancers.  Avonmore seem to have a very good sense of their strengths and a very ambitious and challenging attitude to their shows, which is why the standard of their productions never fails to impress. In thanking you for a wonderful night of entertainment, I wish you continued growth and success in the future. It is always a pleasure to visit.  Peter Kennedy Gilbert Adjudicator 23/24 Photos by Lawrence Timmins

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical as presented by David Hennessy Musical & Dramatic Society

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical as performed by David Hennessy MDS: Date of Adjudication: Thursday, 28th March 2024. Director, David...

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical as performed by David Hennessy MDS: Date of Adjudication: Thursday, 28th March 2024. Director, David Hennessy, has shown, once again, that he has a very good eye for top-notch, hitherto-unseen, musicals, and this year, with Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, he has pulled out all the stops to present it at its finest, assembling a wonderful cast, making sure that the staging and the visual presentation are dynamic, and treating the Waterford audiences to something special and very different to the norm. Being of a certain age, sitting through this show was like taking a trip down memory lane with a group of old friends. Carole King’s Tapestry album was one of the first albums I ever bought, and I believe I may still have it at home, sleeping in the attic alongside albums by The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers and several by Neil Sedaka. This was the music of my childhood, and every song in the show brought a memory back to me. Ah, sweet nostalgia! Thinking perhaps that this was going to be little more than a Carole King song book, held together by a paper thin story, I was delighted to discover it was so much more than that, for linking all the great songs together was the often funny, frequently touching story of Carole King’s early years, from pregnancy at 16 to the end of her marriage, and the beginning of her recognition as a major celebrity. The set for the show had a recording studio feel to it, with the band permanently on stage on two levels at the back. The upper level had small stage spaces on it for singers and some movement, while the main stage served as a studio, several family homes, and a concert stage, depending on the variety and arrangement of furniture and props, which were generally excellent. They were also very efficiently maneuvered about the stage by cast and by a good stage crew, under the direction of Stage Manager, Brian Collins. As the action was very fast moving, with often a concert feel to it, the simplicity of the set worked brilliantly, and was always interesting to look at. What aided it significantly in its success was a very strong lighting plot, which gave us plenty of well-lit isolated areas, and fabulous atmospheric lighting for the performance numbers. But what really set this show on fire for me was a truly wonderful cast, so annoyingly young to be so incredibly talented. Alex Kavanagh, in the central role of Carole King, was nothing short of radiant. It was hard to believe that this lady was only 18 years old, such was the spectrum of her talent. From the moment she appeared, she captured the character of Carole, modest yet ambitious, vulnerable but adventurous. Her acting and her comedy were out of the top drawer, but her stage presence, combined with her superb vocals are what made her totally inhabit the role. She also mimed her piano playing with panache. Just as Carole King became a shining star with her Carnegie Hall concert, so Alex Kavanagh became a shining star playing this role. Alongside her, Jenna Dunphy gave a wonderful interpretation of Cynthia Weil. Her comedic timing was exceptional, and her vocals were strong and confident. This was a delightfully quirky performance, with excellent delivery and great sincerity. The two girls together played off each other brilliantly, and Jenna’s bond with Pádraic Dí Fusco as Barry, was so strong and comfortable. Danny Brockie cut a fine figure as Gerry Goffin, comical and likeable enough to win over Carole in the early scenes. I was not totally convinced by his bad-boy behavior when romance started to waver, but he did pull it all together again when he had his breakdown, and there was great sincerity in his final encounter with Carole. His vocals throughout were very good and very secure. Another top-notch performance came from Pádraic Dí Fusco, as Barry Mann, hilarious in his hypochondria, sincere in his love for Cynthia, delightfully competitive with his writing, and vocally brilliant in the delivery of all his songs. From the gentle, melodic sincerity of Walking in the Rain to the powerhouse Rock delivery of the Animals hit, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, his vocals were superb, and he was just totally believable in his character. Very well-played. The experienced Bill Stafford gave a very strong and balanced performance as producer, Don Kirshner, the balance being between the no-nonsense, business-minded executive and the affable, soft-centred friend and mentor that he proved to be to all his clients. Good humour and delivery where what made his performance shine. As Carole’s mother, Genie Klein, a youthful and expressive Caz Butler Kelly, added a few years to give a captivating comedic performance. With a fabulous voice, great facial expression and excellent timing and delivery, she did not waste a line all night, making this a most enjoyable and entertaining role. Where do I begin to talk about the most impressive newcomers to Musical Theatre? Kingsley Ekedoze. Ayo Akelede, Sean Murphy, and Donal Ojiekhudu stepped out together as The Drifters, sang brilliantly and performed routines that could have been lifted from footage of the original Drifters. They really were so talented, and they nailed their numbers with panache and authenticity. Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, Precious Abimbola, Madeline Blackwell, Celina Kehinde and Angie Goma stepped up as The Shirelles to give a sublime rendition of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. The girls were as beautiful in their movement as they were vocally. Precious also doubled as Janelle Woods, capturing the character of Gerry Goffin’s ‘other woman,’ and singing with great tone and texture. And just when I was thinking this show cannot get any better, up stepped Madeline Blackwell again, this time in the guise of Little Eva, and absolutely brought the house down with a quite magnificent rendition of The Locomotion. Vocally and from a staging point of view, this was the song of the show. Congratulations to Paul Kavanagh and Andrew Lane for creating a great sound and the perfect look and character for The Righteous Brothers, delivering You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling quite brilliantly. There were strong performances too from Samantha O’Regan as Marilyn Ward, Celina Kehinde as both Lucille and the ‘Uptown Singer,’ Charley Fitzgerald as Betty, Adam O’Neill as Lou Adler, Leon Sheehan as a very likeable Nick and Ivan Kiely as a young and perky Neil Sedaka. A strong trio of featured singers, Brenda Giles, Hazel Tebay Kelly, and Susan Murphy gave great back-up vocals to several numbers with Carole. If you are going to do a show about the music industry, it is essential to get the authentic sounds of the era, and that requires an excellent band with excellent leadership. How fortunate for this company that Musical Director, Jimmy Brockie, got it all right. The feel, the rhythms, the tempi of every number was just perfect, played by a brilliant band who were obviously enjoying the experience. When they played the Overture, which was quite excellent, such was their strength and raw energy that I had initial worries that they would drown out much of the show, but all my worries were alleviated when I realized that an excellent sound system was in place to make sure that a good balance was always achieved. There were plenty of ensemble pieces to keep the chorus occupied, all of which were performed with strong vocal quality and great energy in the dances. Michelle Condon’s greatest achievement with her choreography was in replicating the style and form of the era with authentic routines for The Drifters and The Shirelles, and then infusing the ensemble pieces with energy and creativity. Her dancers and movers all performed with great enthusiasm and precision, creating a really strong overall package. The show was beautifully costumed, with great matching outfits for the Drifters and the Shirelles, snappy suits for The Righteous Brothers, and super outfits for the various chorus dance routines. There was a good distinction between fashion conscious Cynthia and homey Carole. All the outfits were era-appropriate, as were the make-up, wigs and hairstyles, so abundant in number that the teams must have been working long hours every night to get them right. The dressing of the stage was very impressive with good props and furniture, including the obligatory pianos, microphones, etc, that gave great authenticity, particularly in the studio scenes. Everything about this production just seemed to click perfectly into place, and was a credit to David Hennessy, who obviously did extensive research to get it just right. I loved every moment of it. The fact that all the music was so well-known was a bonus for the audience, who were itching to sing along with every song. I resisted that urge, and instead, sang every song as I drove back to Galway, high on the energy of the performance, and thoroughly entertained. Peter Kennedy Gilbert Adjudicator 23/24 Photos by Colin Shanahan (Gallery below) & Darragh Carroll (above)

Fiddler on the Roof as presented by New Ross Musical Society

Fiddler on the Roof as presented by New Ross Musical Society Date of Adjudicated Performance: Wednesday 6th March, 2024. I have never...

Fiddler on the Roof  as presented by  New Ross Musical Society  Date of Adjudicated Performance: Wednesday 6th March, 2024. I have never made a secret of the fact that, for various reasons, Fiddler on the Roof is one of my all-time favourite musicals, filled as it is with humour, pathos, wonderful music and a story that pulls at the heart-strings. Despite its age, the show is as pertinent today as when it was first written, as it echoes the current climate in Ukraine, and it is easy to feel the depth of the sentiments expressed and the reality of the situations in which Tevye and his family and community find themselves. For me, it is the perfect balance between the sadness of the story, and the humour of those at its centre, that makes this show work so beautifully, and when a Director shows an astute awareness of that need for balance, he or she is moving along a successful path. In the hands of Director, Derek Shannon, this was definitely the case. He showed great respect for the traditions and the compelling story of Fiddler on the Roof, presenting it in a clean, precise and no-nonsense manner, with characters well-defined and good attention to the set and the costumes. The balance between Tevye’s comedic and chatty relationship with God, and his deference towards his religious obligations, was just about perfect. The show was very nicely cast, and while most principals made a very strong impact, one or two perhaps needed a tad more work on their accents. While most of the drama was very well-realized, I did feel that the pogrom that interrupts Tzeitel’s wedding needed a bit more time to escalate before Perchik was knocked out, a circumstance that was almost missed, as it happened abruptly, and perhaps Tevye should have been given a moment to rush to the aid and protection of his family. That aside, the pace of the show was generally very good. Technically, the show benefitted from a very effective set, using angular wooden buildings that were beautifully painted and utilized. The interior of Tevye’s home was well-achieved, with great attention to detail, including the obligatory Mezuzah on the doorpost, and kudos to the props team for a wide selection of very appropriate props. I loved the novel approach to Motel’s Tailor Shop, with its moveable flats and rotating door. So simple yet very effective. Indeed, good stage planning enabled the stage team, under, Mark Hayden, to keeping everything running pretty smoothly. Lighting, including good use of colours, very effectively created atmosphere in most of the scenes, particularly during the Dream and the Wedding, but unfortunately too often atmosphere came at the expense of good key-lighting. Too often, Tevye’s monologues were beautifully back-lit, but his face was almost in shadow and in the Dream, for example, Tevye and Golde needed to be better lit amid the mayhem that dominated the stage. I was left feeling that more precise lighting and less shadow would have added more drama to the highly emotional scenes. With the exception of one or two noticeable late cues, the sound quality was very good throughout the show, and the balance between the pit and the stage was just right. And talking of the pit, we were treated to a wonderful musical accompaniment to the show from a fine assembly of musicians, under the astute leadership of Musical Director, Jimmy Brockie, who understands that with a show of this length, good pace is essential. When appropriate, he drove the music forward, keeping the livelier numbers rattling along and giving him license to pull back delightfully for the more mellow musical pieces. The work of Chorus Mistress, Claire Wilson, was very evident, with great tone and harmonies emanating from her chorus, particularly noticeable in the Sabbath Prayer, Sunrise Sunset and Anatevka. Indeed , the chorus were equally impressive in their acting and reacting to the drama around them, adding ambiance and emotion to the Wedding scene, the Dream and the Rumour. And possibly their biggest achievement was presenting the choreography of Anne Marie Cooney so cleanly on a stage that didn’t offer a great amount of space for so many bodies. Anne Marie did a great job of presenting ever-changing shapes and patterns in Tradition and the Dream, and in coming up with some energetic and efficient footwork for the bottle dance and the fast-moving To Life number. However, her nicest pieces, visually, were Matchmaker and Chavaleh, where the smaller number of performers gave a chance to see some beautiful movement and dance. There was a wonderful natural calm about Jonathan Kelly’s performance as Tevye. His frequently gentle, polite and unassuming character only served to enhance those moments when his emotions were heightened into some delightful comedy and some intense drama. I loved his control at having his traditional ideas challenged and managing to find logical reasons to accept change, but there was such sincere anguish in his dealing with the pogroms and the act of Chava betraying her faith. In his singing, also, there was a calm yet compelling quality that made you want to listen. Nothing seemed forced or showy, yet with true vocal quality, all his pieces were most impressive, and while Rich Man is always considered Tevye’s showpiece, it was the warmth and sincerity of Do You Love Me and Little Chavaleh that had perfect delivery. He was also blessed to have a feisty and robust life-partner in Lynsey Penkert’s Golde. This was a good solid performance, with strong vocal prowess, very good particularly in her scenes with Tevye, but maybe could have shown a slightly gentler side with her children on occasions. Nevertheless, she was very believable in her character. Jennifer White was a strong, capable yet vulnerable Tzeitel, wanting to please her father, but wanting more to marry her true love. There was sincerity and determination in her acting. From crying at her father’s feet to forcefully cajoling Motel to man-up, she always got the tone just right. What little singing Tzeitel has, she performed with ease and assurance. Ashley Murphy had a nice balance of passion and petulance in the role of Hodel, initially teasing and cool to Perchik, but then genuine in her love for him. Their duet was lovely. I did feel that the ‘melancholy choice’ referred to in Far From The Home I Love would have been more poignant if delivered more intimately to Tevye than to the audience, but it did display a quality voice. Niamh Cullen pitched Chava just perfectly, shy, but rebellious, and determined to fight for her principals. She sang and danced beautifully and played the conflict between family and her loved one with so much sincerity. Ester Crilly’s Yente nicely captured the old-ways, struggling to survive in an ever-changing world, and did so with good comedy that could perhaps have been a tad more exaggerated, but she was very believable. There was a good, strong mix of melancholy and mirth in the interpretation of Lazar Wolf given by Seamus Power. He lost none of the comedy of the role, but he was also so likeable that I found myself feeling sorry for his ill-fortune. He performed To Life with good confidence. Andrew Lane had a secure comedic ability to play the nervous but determined Tailor, Motel Kamzoil. He also displayed a fine voice in Miracle of Miracles, even if his jubilation was, for me, a tad over the top. The rest of his performance was more measured, delightful and sincere. Anthony Finn perhaps needed to be more relaxed and assured, and a little less deliberate in his delivery as Perchik. He performed a lovely duet with Hodel, and very much looked the part, even if his accent was questionable. Conor Lyons had the charm and the good manners as Fyedka to impress and win the affection of Chava. Very nicely played. Julie Kinsella showed much courage to be raised almost to the ceiling as Fruma Sarah and still have the composure to effectively belt out her vocals in the Dream Scene. Also making a strong impression, as the exhumed but feisty Grandma Tzeitel, was Carmel Rowe. Joe Malone, despite an accent that drifted towards the west of Europe on occasions, played a convincingly gruff and unsympathetic Constable. Phil Erskine was a suitably pompous Rabbi’s son as Mendel, while his father, well-played by Owen Cullinan, perhaps needed to be a bit more aged. There was a good busybody nature to Tim Moloney’s Avram, and a strong, self-assurance and vanity about Darragh Carroll’s Mordcha. Very good cameo performances came from Seán O’Brien as Sasha, Phyllis Smith as Shandel, and Billy Stafford as The Fiddler, even if he was slightly over-used, playing on the roof top. Aoibhinn Finn and Saoirse Penkert were charming and delightful as Bielke and Shprintze, contributing nicely to their scenes. Costuming was very good indeed, with nice compliance with the ‘traditional’ demands for skull caps, prayer shawls, etc. Russian uniforms looked well and congratulations on providing a 16-foot long nightdress that allowed Fruma Sara to virtually rise to the ceiling during the Dream sequence. It was excellent. There was good attention to make-up, not just in keeping the chorus to earth tones, but also good aging and character make-up for several characters. Most of the beards looked natural, although I might have been inclined to age the Rabbi a bit more with a full gray/white beard. I was very touched indeed by the great community spirit that emanated from this company, from on-stage to front of house and behind the scenes, and after all, isn’t that exactly what Fiddler is all about? A community, sharing in their highs and lows and making the best of every situation, even in the face of adversity. New Ross captured that emotional journey most effectively and did so in a compelling manner that had me leaving the theatre with that wonderful sense of fulfilment that this beautiful show always creates. Thank you sincerely to one and all for all your hard work.  Peter Kennedy Gilbert Adjudicator AIMS 2023 / 2024 Please enjoy some photos kindly shared by Reb Mordcha  -  Photographer - Darragh Carroll
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