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5 Mar 2024

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11 Feb 2024

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16 Apr 2024

Hitis Of the Musicals

18 Nov 2023


Legally Blonde as presented by Nenagh Choral Society Youth Academy

Legally Blonde as presented by Nenagh Choral Society Youth Academy Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 5th October 2023 Sullivan...

Legally Blonde as presented by  Nenagh Choral Society Youth Academy Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 5th October 2023 Sullivan Section - Caroline Daly Jones On a wet and very windy evening I visited the Scouts Hall in Nenagh, for the Nenagh Choral Society Youth Academies Production of Legally Blonde The Musical.  Despite the miserable weather and a long drive, when I entered the Hall there was an immediate atmosphere of warmth and friendliness. There is a very strong sense of community within the Hall and in this group. I was greeted warmly by Therese and Margaret and Chairperson Mr Greg Browne and immediately felt so welcome. The awful weather outside was immediately forgotten as I took my seat. I was given a lovely welcome on arrival as well as having a great chat at the interval on the history of Nenagh and its past shows. The front of house team was large in number under the management of Una Collins.  Well done to you all as the house was jammed to the rafters and between all of you we managed to start bang on time with all seating issues solved quickly.  This was the first time I had seen this musical and I was not disappointed. Apart from a few glitches with the set towards the end of Act 1,  the show ran smoothly and with a fast pace throughout. This show is full of energy and enthusiasm and straight away the Stage came to life with its huge pink cylindrical columns on either side of the stage and a pink backdrop which had windows in it and as each window opened we were introduced to Elle and the girls with their opening number “Omigod You Guys” and we were left in doubt whatsoever that this was definitely the set of Legally Blonde as there was pink everywhere from floor to ceiling. It was a great start to the show and immediately the energy bounced off the stage. Well done to set artists Paddy Nevin and Teresa Coen. The Director and Choreographer for this show was Ms Stephanie Browne and especially for this show which has so much choreography it is no mean achievement for Ms Browne to take on both these roles. Direction was slick, and careful thought had been given to the multiple characters. Some of them played more than one role. Casting was super and as previously mentioned the show flowed from one scene to another very well. The set took a few feet of stage space left and right but there was extra space in front of stage right that was used cleverly. There were a couple of scenes where I felt a freeze would have worked better than cast silent miming and acting whilst another scene took place but this didn’t retract from any enjoyment. I feel that Ms Browne excelled with the choreography for this show. The cast were simply fantastic in all routines and the energy and cohesion for each routine was among the best I have ever seen for a very young youth group. Particular examples of excellence in choreography and performance were ‘Omigod You Guys’ and especially ‘Whipped into Shape ‘ which was simply incredible. Ms Mary Rose McNally directed a fabulous sounding 9 piece orchestra and I loved the sound they created. It was indeed lovely to see the use of a pit with the Musical Director conducting. The score was played well and with great precision and I’ve no doubt that it helped the performers on stage especially when the script needs to be timed leading to vocals whilst being underscored.  The sound and harmonies from the cast was particularly good showing that much time had been spent in rehearsal on this particular element.  I especially loved the Overture at the beginning of the show. Overtures are now no longer a part of every show but it was lovely that Nenagh included this in theirs and it was a beautiful sound to start the evening. Working in a confined space backstage I must say a very well done to the stage management team under the leadership of Rachel Browne, Maire Long and Phillip Talbot.  The Shower scene worked really well and considering the size of this set I must congratulate all the team on how seamless the transitions were. The main set was flipped between the Delta Nu building with opening windows which worked really well,  to the inside of Harvard and the College.  The set was simple but effective.  Different pictures were flashed onto the backstage wall to help interpret other scenes like the Department Store and these worked well.  Yes, on the night I attended there was a major set ‘incident’ at the end of Act 1 but it was resolved and the show went on. By the start of Act 2 it was fixed without further incident. Well done team.  Star Systems did the Lighting and Sound. Lighting was very good in most parts and enhanced the production.  In some scenes cast were a little slow to find their spots but this wasn’t a lighting issue as they were fixed spots. Sound was very good in general.  The costumes were very well thought out, of a high standard and befitting each character.  Elle was dressed impeccably throughout as were all the Delta Nu’s. The Workout and Majorettes were costume highlights for me as were the very good makeup and hair. Elle Woods was played by Caroline Browne and I immediately liked her performance. She played the part very well. Her acting and her singing and also her movement showed that this young lady is multi-talented and was well cast in the role. I really loved her singing and her portrayal of Elle, even if sometimes I think she spoke a little too quickly in her enthusiasm,  and I missed some of her lines now and again.  However - Ms Browne looked great, sang beautifully, had great moments and stage presence.  Her many costume changes were very slick and I liked that at one stage she had one costume under another and the change was seamless. A very good performance from this very talented lady. Well done. Emmett Forrest was played very well by Conal Daly. This young man had a great stage presence, a lovely speaking voice and his songs with Elle were performed very well. Mr Forrest has excellent diction and a good singing voice.  I loved how his character changed as he grew in confidence and as he fell for Elle he became more confident in the presence of Professor Callahan and Mr Daly played this very well . His duets and chemistry with Elle was not overplayed , it was just right. Super maturity for a male lead who is still a school student .  Caroline Kennedy played the part of Paulette Buonufonte and she was super in this role. Pretty,  great costumes and sassy, she had a lovely warm friendly persona and she sang this role very well particularly in the song “ Ireland”.  There was great chemistry between herself and Kyle, played by Eamon Coffey. This was a well-cast duo and this pair bounced off each other very well.  Well done. Warner Huntington III was played by Aaron O’Donoghue. Mr O’Donoghue had great stage presence and sang his part well. He acted the two faced wealthy spoilt rich kid Harvard student very well , always looking at the best way up the social ladder. He was very smartly dressed and his songs showed his lovely singing voice. Professor Callahan was played by Killian Forde. What an amazing strong speaking voice. Immediately I was drawn to the depth of tone and his clarity. He had a great stage presence.  He played the part really well and I just knew in his sleazy scene with Elle that it was about to happen, all due to the way the character was played.  Well Done. Grace Shesgreen was the ice queen Vivienne Kensington.  Her facial expressions were fantastic and you really wanted to despise her character within the audience.  Her aligning with Elle at the end of the show was also played very well indeed and showed off her lovely singing voice. Enid Hoops was played by Grainne Scullane and boy did she make me laugh in places. What a great character actor here with impeccable comedic timing and this was the epitome of there’s no such thing as a small part. Ms Scullanne absolutely got everything out of Enid Hoops.  A most enjoyable performance. Brooke Wyndham played by Megan Maher led the team on ‘ Whipped Into Shape’ which for me was one of the highlights of the show. Fantastic energy, a great part, and amazing fitness along with a lovely voice. It was a great opening to the 2nd Act . Well done. Special mention has to go to the Delta Nu Students played by Cleo Griffin as Margot, Saoirse Lalor as Serena, Orna Daly as Pilar, and Erin Burke as Kate.  The energy,  movement,  acting and singing of these four young women was simply fantastic and of very high quality. The audience lit up with 'oohs' and 'ahhs' of delight when Eamon Coffey came on as Kyle the UPS delivery man.  He revelled in this role and his chemistry with Paulette as mentioned was super.  Well done. There were excellent cameo performances from other cast members, notably Adam Carroll as Nikos and Dylan Noonan as Carlos ( among other characters) and these two had me in stitches.  Harry Moriarty, Jayden Guilfoyle and Katelyn Carson played their parts very well and there is a bright future with young performers like these coming through in Nenagh. Well done to you all. The entire team of cast members in this show deserve a special mention. They were secure in movement and in vocals.  Not missing a beat and in some numbers the stage was full and I was particularly impressed as to how every member danced and moved in such confined spaces without any interference to another.  A sure sign of endless rehearsal and dedication to getting it right.  I must say what a joy it was to see the youth of Nenagh and environs absolutely enjoying putting on this show with real quality and style and professionalism.  You are all a credit to your town and long may you continue performing.  Fantastic talent from the Cast, Production Crew and Backstage all the way down to Sally and Toby – Bruiser and Rufus, who were just adorable also and so well behaved!. Overall a great show, with some lovely performances and a well-deserved standing ovation.  Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator   Some photos kindly shared by the society to accompany the review:

Calendar Girls as presented by Bravo Theatre Group

Calendar Girls is, in my estimation, a superb fusion of tragedy and comedy, dealing as it does with the sinister spectre of Cancer........

Calendar Girls as presented by Bravo Theatre Group Date of Adjudicated Performance: Friday 29th September, 2023 Gilbert Section - Peter Kennedy Perhaps with Calendar Girls, more than any show I’ve seen, the real star of the show is not the leading lady or man, nor the supporting characters, nor the comedy back-up, but the story itself, crafted so beautifully to show the darker and the lighter sides of coping with tragedy. The job of the director, I believe, is to let it run naturally, honestly and with sincerity. It doesn’t require gimmicks, special effects, outrageous performances or any superfluous flannel, for as written, it is simply beautiful, courageous and heart-melting. Director, Pat McElwain’s great success with this Bravo production, was in allowing it to follow that free-flowing, natural path from the page to the stage, which he did, with superb reality and un-forced sentiment. He used the stage very well, dressed it appropriately, and judged the timing of the emotional scenes to perfection, and with very few exceptions, the mood, the comedy and the sentiment were perfectly captured. That he was also blessed with a superb cast who really got under the skin of the story, was a considerable bonus. Jay Origan, brought a wealth of wonderful comedic ability to the role of Chris, and while she made us laugh so heartily throughout, it was often the more emotional scenes of her performance that showed her true range as a performer. As a stalwart friend to Annie, as a caring and concerned mother to Danny, and as the catalyst for the Calendar campaign, she ran the full gamut of emotions with a comfort and ease that were remarkable. With good vocal ability to bolster her acting and comedy, this was a quite brilliant overall performance. Katie Creaven, in the role of Annie, gave a deeply emotional performance of the grieving process associated with experiencing the demise of a loved one through a chronic illness. Her love for her husband, John, was intense and moving, and her heartbreak at his passing was palpable. There was levity in her early, happier scenes, and I found myself wanting it to return more noticeably as the story progressed in act two, where the focus of the narrative becomes the memorial to, and the celebration of the life of, her husband. Therein lies the strength of a script that is crafted to raise us from the sadness of Act One to a more joyous celebration of life in Act Two. With a wonderful vocal quality, Katie infused all her numbers with drama and purpose. There was a warmth and tenderness to the performance of Declan  Kelly in the role of John, who, even facing the reality of his mortality, never lost his spirit, his sense of humour, nor his dignity. That he portrayed the character with not an ounce of self-pity was a testament to a beautifully thoughtful and serene understanding of the human condition. Truly an inspirational performance. Heather Colohan, as Cora, had a great sense of fun and ribaldry combined with a credible sense of caution about activities that stepped outside her normal comfort zone. Her “Who Wants a Silent Night” was one of the fun musical highlights of the first half, vocally well-performed, and with a great sense of mischief. Her initial reluctance to pose naked was matched by her eventual willingness to give it a go. This was a very amusing characterisation. Suzanne Garvey flaunted deliciously about the stage, giving an air of mystique and superiority to the character of Celia, with her “enhanced” physique! Of course, she’s really as false as her implants, and her warmth eventually shines through in a comically and well-realized characterisation. She made the most of “I’ve Had A Little Work Done”, and was hilarious in her teasing of Tommo. A quite brilliantly aged Frieda McGrath, in the role of Jessie, used excellent comedic timing and delivery to establish the quaint and quirky character of an elegant, aging woman who’s not prepared to relinquish her right to be outrageous. This was a superbly played role. In the character of Ruth, Yvonne Earls touchingly represents the awkward sadness of a woman who faces a loveless marriage by immersing herself in alternative activities, and then bursts forth in a delightfully comical drunken spree to release her inner feminism and to reject her no-good husband. Very nicely and sincerely played indeed, with a comical and pointed “My Russian Friend and I”. Not to be outdone by the brazenness of her WI colleagues, Ailbhe Slevin made her own mark as Marie, the social climbing Chairwoman of the WI, as ludicrous as Hyacinth Bucket in her stuffiness, yet as vulnerable as all the other women, trying to cope with a wayward teenage daughter. This was a richly comedic caricature, brilliantly delivered. As the wayward daughter, Jenny, Hannah Wright displayed the perfect amount of attitude to be obnoxious, yet extremely likeable. Her scenes with testosterone-fueled Danny and Tommo were extremely funny and natural, and in her few opportunities to shine vocally, she made the very most of them. The aforementioned Danny and Tommo were given top-notch treatment by Eoin Mullins and Keith Hanley, respectively. They played the young, awkward, male virgins with great character and comedy, particularly good timing and an abundant sense of fun. Both were also vocally strong in the little they had to sing. With great sincerity as a nurse in the Cancer ward, Patrick Byrne showed his strong dramatic qualities as Lawrence, and then progressed to the rank of highly accomplished comedian, as he was coaxed to become the photographer for the Calendar. A delightfully executed characterisation, and hilarious in his captivation with Celia’s boobs! A talented trio of husbands provided good back-up to their ladies in the shape of Declan Finn as Rod, Norman Quinn as Colin and David Alexander as Denis, at their best in the comical opening of Act Two as they stood speechless, mouths gaping, in disbelief at what they had witnessed. Each played their role with individuality and assurance. Muirne Hurley-Goode as Miss Wilson Tea, and Marie Therese Morahan as Miss Wilson Coffee, gave two highly amusing cameo performances throughout as the WI caterers, even happy to offer baps along with their refreshments on their final appearance! Very nicely played, girls. Michelle Drysdale as Mrs Cravenshire and Lindsey Cant as guest speaker, Brenda Hulse, gave good support and very capably completed the principal line-up. The chorus have few opportunities to make an impression in this show, but impress they did, with some beautiful and robust harmonies. They had great fun during “Who Wants A Silent Night”, and a group of them made the most of their brief appearance as air-hostesses. The show requires very little choreography, but Choreographer, Sarah Kenny, did enough to enhance the production and to keep the chorus occupied. They were also very tidy in their execution of the routines. Musical Director, Shane Farrell, got everything right, from the tone, tempi and balance of his orchestra, to the vocal quality of his chorus and principals. The whole show was musically delightful. Both technically and visually, everything was tidy, efficient and well-designed for this production. The set was simple and effective, the props were well sourced, the costumes were good and always appropriate. Make-up and hairstyles were good, especially the aging make-up for Jessie. The lighting was not flamboyant, but very mellow and thoughtful, creating atmosphere and ambiance without ever distracting from the drama. Sound quality was just about perfect. Stage management, in the hands of SM, Chontelle Kenny, was efficient and unobtrusive, except on a few occasions when masking of the wings was a tad ineffective. This is my second time to see this show, and I’m delighted to note that on both occasions, Calendars of the cast were produced and sold to raise much needed funds for local cancer charities and local hospice groups. It is a truly beautiful way for us, as musical thespians, to give something back to society. Calendar Girls is, in my estimation, a superb fusion of tragedy and comedy, dealing as it does with the sinister spectre of Cancer and the effect it has on not just a family, but a whole community. Beautifully written, with very real characters, an amazing story, and a very appealing musical score, it’s just one of those shows that really pulls a company together, and on this occasion, it lifted them to a great height. My most sincere thanks to all concerned in Bravo for a very emotional theatrical experience. Peter Kennedy, Gilbert Adjudicator Some photos kindly sent in by the society to accompany the review Photography by Paul Kelly of Indigo Lighting

Bare as presented by UCD Musical Society

Bare as presented by UCD Musical Society Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 28th September, 2023. Gilbert Section - Peter Kennedy...

Bare as presented by UCD Musical Society Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 28th September, 2023. Gilbert Section - Peter Kennedy There is an abundance of modern musicals centred around angst-riddled teenagers, struggling with their identity and trying to fit into a world populated by parents, school-teachers and church leaders who just don’t understand or want to address the woes of the younger generation. One of the most recent additions to that genre is Bare, which I have just seen, and very much enjoyed, for the first time. There are strong echoes of Spring Awakening in the setting, the format and the various situations that occur, excepting that the main focus in Bare is on a gay relationship, making it particularly relevant and important to the LGBTQ+ community. The messages that are brought to the surface through the telling of the story of Peter and Jason are by no means new, but they are always relevant, and their need to be told is manifest in so far as they provoke conversation, the essential starting point for encouraging change and acceptance. Much like Romeo and Juliet, which features significantly throughout the show, Bare is a tragedy, and a very touching one at that, but it is also laced with some very good comedy and inventive devices to prevent it from becoming a drudgery of disaster and depression. In its good balance, it all the more poignantly makes its points. This particular production, in the hands of UCD students, was very much carried by excellent performances and good direction, which compensated, to some extent, for a technical presentation that needed a lot more work to reach its full potential. From a lighting point of view, moving heads were plentiful, but they were not employed with a high degree of accuracy, often missing their target or arriving late to capture the action. Some nice atmospheres were achieved but too often the overall effect was a tad bland. Perhaps the dream sequences of the show needed more surreal lighting also, to accentuate their diversion from the norm. The sound system was equally worrying, with much late cueing of radio mics, resulting in lines being lost, and issues, on occasions, with balance. Knowing the standards that these experienced technicians are capable of, I’m inclined to believe that perhaps more pre-show planning between them and the director may have been required. Where the director, Sorcha McGlynn, was extremely successful, however, was in drawing forth a depth of character and understanding from her principals, and presenting their stories in an artistic and cohesive manner, with good use of the stage and a very strong focus on the relevant issues of the story. Dramatic scenes were well-pointed and timed, and the lighter moments of the show were very well-realized. Technical issues aside, the pace and focus of the show were excellent. Choreographer, Brianna Kelly, captured teenage-angst very well with some nice angry dance routines, but also offered up some tender, almost balletic sequences for some of the shows more gentle moments. A very worthy contribution to the overall ambiance of the show. Musical Director, Luke Shiels, obviously did very good work on an unusually diverse and alternative score, with unexpected harmonies and unconventional endings to many of the musical numbers. He achieved a very good sound from the band, even if, on occasions, the drummer, who was rhythmically excellent, did tend to be a tad over-exuberant. Vocal Director, Amber Dixon, had her chorus and her principals well-drilled in the complexities of the musical score, producing some very high quality vocal performances. But it was the actors themselves who really got under the skin of the script and made very strong statements with their drama. In the central role of Peter, Colm Aherne had a gentleness that was most beguiling and an intensity that created a compelling performance. His emotions seemed most sincere in his scenes with Jason, but it was in trying to connect with his mother where his acting was most affecting. His handling of their phone conversation was excellent, as was his distress at losing Jason. He also had a very good vocal quality to accompany the very well-expressed emotions. In contrast, there was a cocky, self-assuredness about the portrayal of popular-jock, closet gay, Jason, from Colm Fagan. Always slightly on edge in his encounters with Peter, he was tellingly even more intimidated by his romance with Ivy, which was as it should have been. A very nicely measured performance. There was meaningful interaction with his sister, and it was all achieved with a very good and secure voice. Aimee O’Neill, in the role of Ivy, captured beautifully the many facets of a complex character. At ease with her provocative sexuality in the early scenes, and ruthlessly dismissive of the attentions of Matt, she transitioned perfectly into the maturing young lady who finds something deeper than sexual fulfilment with Jason. Her handling of the revelation of her pregnancy and the heartbreak of the subsequent scenes was most affecting. Her vocal quality, particularly in her emotional solos, was excellent. In Maya Gaul, UCD have an actress who can play comedy as comfortably as she can display emotion, as she demonstrated with a beautiful and sincere performance as Nadia. “Plain Jane Fat Ass” was well sung and just about perfectly expressed, and her solo on the mock cello was a high point. The pain at the loss of her brother was intense and unsettling. Beautifully played. Molly Coogan, as Claire, combined with Colm Aherne for what was, for me, one of the saddest and most disturbing sequences of the show in “See Me”. The phone conversation, where a mother refuses to hear her son’s anguish and pain, was so close to a reality that I have witnessed in real life, that it made me as angry as it made me sad. That was largely due to a beautiful piece of acting and singing by Molly, which she continued into an equally disturbing “Warning”, a bewildering kind of fusion of self-pity and sincere heartache for her son. Very well done, Molly. Sister Chantelle is a delightfully written comedic character, with a wit as dry as Sister Michael in Derry Girls. She also has a couple of impressive gospel style numbers, which Jessica Afrakoma enjoyed delivering. This is a young lady with great potential, who needs only to develop a bit more self-confidence to add physicality to her performance. She was a tad apologetic in her delivery, which caused her to rush her lines, but when she becomes more self-assured, she will be a force to be reckoned with. Eoghan Funge gave a strong reality to the role of Matt, the jealous wannabe boyfriend of Ivy. He handled his rejection beautifully, curbed his anger effectively, and when he eventually cracked, his temper was through frustration rather than sexism, and he was sincere in his regret at having made inappropriate remarks. This was a tricky role to get just right, and he did. Apart from a dodgy note or two in his first duet, his vocal performance was also steadfast. Liam O’Sullivan proved to be the perfect choice for the role of Lucas, the pharmacist! He maintained his quirky character very well throughout the show, and his rapping was top notch in delivery. Nicely done. Adam Schmitz had the onerous task of representing Catholic guilt in the story, in the shape of the Priest, which he achieved most effectively, largely through an almost monotonous, repetitive tone and response to all moral questions raised to him during confessions. As with Peter’s mother, there was that reluctance to give straight answers and to show any true connection or concern for the mental state of those who challenged his beliefs. Very well-played. The remaining members of the cast, Chloe Burke as Diane, Jennifer Yorke as Kyra, Liadh Murphy as Tanya, Charlotte Berry-Walshe as Rory, Dani Halpin as Alana and Eoin Murphy as Zack, individually and collectively added comedy, atmosphere and very secure vocals and dance to enhance the production most effectively. Though small in number, they did a mammoth amount of work, functioning as a named chorus. A mostly neutral set was dressed with two permanent and very appropriate and well-selected images. A crucifix, over-shadowing all the action, like a constant reminder of catholic guilt, and a large Rose in the stained-glass window, a direct reference to Shakepeare’s “A Rose by any other name, would smell as sweet”, suggesting that all love, even gay love, is still love. The rest of the set was very adequate for the needs of the production, and stage management, under Sammy Heroux, saw transitions, and the introduction of an array of props and furniture, all very efficiently moved about the stage. There were no issues with costumes or make-up, all of which were era-appropriate and on point. In the dream scene involving Mary and her angels, the exaggerated costumes were delightful, and perhaps the dream “wedding” scene could have benefitted from some similar flamboyance. This was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking show, with good attention to the text and theme, extremely good performances, and high musical quality, and despite my issues with some of the technical elements, they were certainly not significant enough to diminish my pleasure and enjoyment of a thoroughly entertaining night of musical theatre. I very much look forward to your future productions, and thank you sincerely for your wonderful hospitality. Peter Kennedy, Gilbert Adjudicator. Some photos kindly sent in by the society to accompany the review

“Local and Community Arts”
Presented by the Association of Irish Musical Societies (A.I.M.S)

“Local and Community Arts” Presented by the Association of Irish Musical Societies (A.I.M.S) Represented by Feargal Cavanagh (National...

“Local and Community Arts” Presented by the Association of Irish Musical Societies (A.I.M.S) Represented by Feargal Cavanagh (National President) & Frank Foley (National Secretary) The Association of Irish Musical Societies known as A.I.M.S., was started in 1965 as the governing body for musical Societies, and has grown now to have in excess of 120 musical societies based throughout the entire island of Ireland. Within these societies we currently would have in excess of 14,000 members involved in performing or bringing to the stage, close to 200 different productions, giving in excess of 800 live show performance every year from full scale musicals Theatre productions, to Christmas pantomimes, and also concerts This is giving us a total audience of half a million people annually. 
 Whilst we are seen as an Amateur Arts Organisation, our many members societies stage our shows to a very professional standard, and with an average cost of €40-€50K giving us an overall spend of in the region of €8 Million per year. So, between all our member societies we employ Directors, Musical directors and choreographers and many musicians for all our orchestras. Along with that we employ many technicians many lighting operators, sound technicians, set builders/painters, costume suppliers, props, hair and makeup crews. Also, many volunteers are involved in stage crews, Front of House teams, catering staff, so there could be in around 100 people working on every production with substantial amount of them doing this on a voluntary community basis. 
 Our A.I.M.S. societies perform in many theatres, Town Halls, Community halls and schools nationwide. Our societies are a vibrant and vital part of our communities, and for many young people throughout the country is the first introduction to Musical Theatre and West-End Shows. In recent covid years we have certainly appreciated how vital Live Theatre and entertainment is in the country we live in. Local and community arts such as Musical Theatre gives the opportunity for audiences to socialise, meet friends & family, get out of the house, have somewhere to go, switch off and be entertained. Whilst at the same time it is a chance for all members to do the same, but also to learn develop your talents and be educated, be it, singing, dancing, acting, and wellbeing, all whilst making friends. Most societies rehearse a production for an average of in around three months, which in a lot of cases carries them through the winter months. Also, being part of and working as a group, in developing a person’s acting, singing, and choreography, is especially good for the body and the mind and is very positive in regards to everyone mental health. Our AIMS Member societies which perform mainly from September right through to Mid-May. These activities galvanise a community, and not just local communities, but neighbouring communities support each other in these activities, creating a complex web of social and cultural interaction and networking that is unique to Irish Society. Our individual society members, range in age from infants to people in their 80’s, we positively embrace and encourage all age groups, irrespective of class, gender, orientation, religion or creed. We encourage all to join their local musical society and enhance their individual talent, be it onstage or whatever roll within the Musical society suits best. We have been invited her today to discuss Local and community Arts and what can be done to enhance and further develop this throughout the entire country. AIMS societies cover the entire country From Buncrana in Donegal to Killarney in Kerry, and have built up a network throughout the regional communities of individuals with the both artistic talent and organisational skills to continue to develop the Community Musical Theatre Arts sector. However, one issue which is a continual major issue for Musical theatre is creating the funds to keep every Society on the road. Whilst every society will have its paying audiences, and whilst all our cast are amateur, this is never enough to cover all the costs which, as mentioned earlier for most societies will be in the region of €40k -€50K, So every society relay on fundraising. We do realise that the Arts council state that it is not in their remit to support local community Arts, and they sate that this is the remit of the local individual councils to support and assist local Community arts in their council area, principally through their Arts office. However, in practice this varies considerably for council to council without any one scheme being available to all, and also the amount of support that may be available in any one year. Any Musical Society cannot feel certain that funding will be forthcoming from year to year, this is a major issue for societies when they try to plan out and budget for their upcoming show and at the same time cannot be sure of what may be available in support schemes via the council. It would be quite usual that you could apply for grant assistance for a scheme that guidelines say you can apply for up to say €5000 and you actually get €1000. We do understand that it depends on how many apply and how much is available but still it leaves musical societies with serious financial uncertainties to cope with. All our Local community Musical Societies strive to bring to the stage musical theatre productions of the very best quality, and so it would greatly help if dedicated funding can be ringfenced to provide reliable consistent funding to provide a less precarious path for Societies. We are aware that just this year a new scheme that has come through local the Local council called “The Community Recognition Fund” Funded by the Dept of Rural and Community Development. We are not be sure how many councils have implemented this funding programme, nor do we know if it is going to be available next year, nor do we know if there is an equivalent funding programme available for urban based musical theatre societies 
 Today I have the great honour of addressing you all as National President of AIMS. My job and the job of all involved in AIMS is to continue the development and enhancement of Local and community Musical Theatre throughout the country, and I hope that this committee can bring forward a programme for Local and community Arts which will support our member societies to in their work to bring the highest of standard of Musical Theatre within their local community society. Feargal Cavanagh Nat President A.I.M.S.

RENT as presented by North Wexford Musical Theatre

RENT as presented by NORTH WEXFORD MUSICAL THEATRE Date of Adjudicated Performance: Friday 15th September 2023 Sullivan Section -...

RENT as presented by  NORTH WEXFORD MUSICAL THEATRE Date of Adjudicated Performance: Friday 15th September 2023 Sullivan Section - Caroline Daly Jones    FIND THE COURAGE TO SOAR DESPITE THE FEAR OF FALLING”.     There is a certain atmosphere that emulated from this stage from the moment this show opened on its second night of a three night run.  The friendship and closeness of this small group of very talented performers immediately burst forth and shone from the stage relentlessly.  It was beautiful, and I was honoured to have witnessed this amongst this strong, talented and amazing team. A Society only in its third year since being founded by Mr Stephen Acton (Director) and Mr Conor McCarthy (Musical Director) in 2020. A completely sold-out show. Of course it was. There was an energy that bounced off the stage from the opening seconds of this spellbinding raw, and very emotional show. This cast were as one. A unit. A brick wall.A fortress. A chain.  It never wavered.  It was mesmerising and awesome and I found myself experiencing many emotions as this magic unfolded. This group of wonderfully talented performers each and every one of you had us, me, – your audience in the palm of your hand and it was not just once, but many times during this stunning production, I wanted to stand up in my seat and applaud until my hands hurt such was the beauty of this music. The staging and the raw emotion and as mentioned above – the bond between every single member of this cast was truly out of this world in this outstanding production of RENT The Musical.  WOW.  
 Director Stephen Acton, Musical Director, Conor McCarthy and Choreographer Megan Lopez gave us a spellbinding production that worked fluidly and with ease.  From the beginning of the show the attention to detail was very obvious and well done – starting with the big, long wire cable hanging of the set down stage left which was the connection for the tenants in the apartment which immediately emphasised the fact that these were indeed very poor students who definitely could not pay their RENT.  Mr Acton’s Direction was mesmerising. This show from the first beat of the opening number was a vision to behold. These three key roles worked beautifully together to present to its audience a show that was exemplary in each of these fields and the production was flawless. The sign above the stage “Find The Courage Despite The Fear Of Falling” which remained on stage all evening but changed colour at various intervals was a fantastic way of relaying the whole story of RENT - it reminded the audience what this story is all about and the importance of having courage always when faced with adversity. It worked very well. I loved the set colours of the table and the steps leading up to the balcony painted in bright colours yellow reds, pink blues green worked very well in stark contrast to the steel scaffolding like bars that made up the various levels of this clever set. La Vie Boheme was very cleverly staged with the tables horizontally positioned so that every cast member could see each other. This seating worked very well for the company and I loved the La Vie Boheme A & B. . This number was superbly effective and very clever use of the stage.  Each level of the stage was consistently used and it created a visual impact and the very many different levels when the full ensemble was on stage worked very well. The freezes in many numbers whilst soloists were singing were very effective.   
 The very first opening of the show was very clever and innovative indeed in a perfect collaboration between the director and choreographer. The entire company was on stage for the opening number ‘Rent’ . It was in your face , raw , passionate and certainly set an immediate marker and standard for what was to come. It was very obvious to me that the director had rehearsed tirelessly with the front line and ensemble to get every ounce of emotion , chemistry , passion and sheer brilliant stage presence from all. Although not a huge dance show, where needed the ensemble were so together. “Today 4 U” was beautifully moved. I particularly liked the use of the chopsticks by Angel and his movements and of course “Sante Fe” superb movement, “Tango Maureen” was extremely well done. La Vie Boheme was a joy.  As I mentioned earlier , the opening number ‘ Rent’ was a tour de force and a marker for the whole show. 
 Choreography was so well rehearsed in the chaos that is La Vie Boheme that it just flowed. You cannot have chaos and constant movement on stage unless it has been choregraphed to minute detail. This was so apparent in this number. Well done to you. 
 The Orchestra were positioned on stage with the cast under the upper-level balcony with the Musical Director Mr Conor McCarthy over down stage left so he could clearly see the performers, play keyboard and conduct.  The NWMT Band consisting of Conor McCarthy, Conductor / Keyboard 1, Karl Crone, Guitar 1, Una Maguire, Guitar 2, & Keyboard, Colette Cleary,  Bass, and Drum Kit Brian O’Reilly worked superbly as a group, very good sound, and did not overshadow the soloists . I loved the idea of the live band on stage with the performers. It solidifies the set and everyone is as one together. This band although small had a huge impact on the success of this production. You were hidden which did not take away from the performers – subtly in the background yet all around.  One particular note that I must mention is the seamless music transitions between scenes . There are not many on stage set changes required in Rent but where a significant change was required the music carried on , seamlessly leading us to the next scene where the trust between MD and performers was obvious. The music started – and the cast were ready. Superb timings. This worked very well and I commend Mr McCarthy and his band and also for the polished and professional sound produced throughout  the show. A huge Orchestral undertaking with beautiful sound and a team who worked exceptionally well together. Well done.     Lighting Design & Operation and Sound by Eddie O’Brien and iTech Productions was subtle yet very effective. I particularly liked the 4 spots shining down on the whole cast from above for the Finale of Act 2 – Finale B. Not at any stage was the sound too loud for the performers. The ‘Out Tonight’ scene was extremely well lit given the atmosphere of an underground dance / gentleman’s club and the lighting was raunchy and sexy and it worked very well. 
 Stage management was run by Nigel May and Brian Dowling. All set changes were very well done and at one point the stage was covered in litter and all sorts of ‘ Junk’ Such was the skill of the SM team , I don’t recall when it was cleared away . It just happened ! ( or maybe I was wiping away some tears ! ) 
 Hair Design by Marion O’Toole, and Make Up Design, by Tommy Cox, assisted by Karla Treacy, along with Props by Ms Caoimhe Boyle, Wardrobe and Costumes by Concepta Church were very good choices and were perfect for the era. A lot of thought went into these areas, and it showed. Hair Design was very effective and looked great with particular attention to details for Mimi’s curls and Maureen’s silk long blonde sheath of hair. Well done all of you.    
 Programme Design (loved it) in charge were Brandon Cogley & Tommy Cox.  Very well done.  Photography Poster was brilliant may I add and already mentioned the Cinematography for Angels funeral was extremely effective and these areas were looked after by Paul Kehoe. Not an easy job with the size of that sheet for the Cinematography reel but it absolutely worked! Well done. I loved this aspect of the show too. Very professional and added a beautiful touch to the atmosphere unfolding for Angels funeral.  Conor McNelis played the part of Mark . Mr McNelis has a soft lyrical voice which suited this part very well . His acting was very good especially in the exchanges with Roger and ensemble. He was the story teller and knitted the show together whilst informing the audience of the goings on . ‘Life support was very emotional and Mr McNelis certainly contributed to this scene even as an onlooker. The duet ‘ What you own ‘ with Roger was excellent . A thoroughly commendable performance. 
 Jordan Bass played the role of Roger. What a stage presence and what a voice. This gentleman is obviously no stranger to stage and although I have not seen him perform before myself Mr Bass works a stage very well. His height, and his guitar playing in the beginning showed him as quite a melancholy character afraid to leave his flat so he sits in his room and plays his guitar. Mr Bass was a very strong Roger. From the moment he started singing “One Song Glory” I was hooked. What a beautiful rock style voice however possessing great tone and musicality. This did not waver once. This is a part that suited Mr Bass down to the ground in both singing and acting and he played this role superbly. “Light My Candle” with Mimi was stunning and effective, “You’ll See” with Mark, Roger, Collins and Angel – was a highlight.    Other fantastic beautifully sung numbers for Mr Bass were “Another Day”, “La Vie Boheme” and ‘ What you own’. “ Without You” with Roger and Mimi blew me away. There was great chemistry between Mr Bass and Ms Kelly (Mimi) and these two worked extremely well together. Their love for each other bounced off the stage and there were many emotions here for me as an audience member watching their love story unfold with music was touchingly beautiful. 
 April Kelly played the part of Mimi and what an enchanting and multi-talented performer this young lady is. I do believe Jonathan Larson had someone like Ms Kelly in mind to play Mimi when he was composing this beautiful piece of theatre that is RENT.  Ms Kelly’s costumes, make up, and hair, in every single scene were visually fabulous, sexy, cheeky, daring, but never vulgar. Ms Kelly’s singing was sassy yet so melodic, her range, her movement on stage, was perfect. “Out Tonight”, “Another Day” with Roger and Company was so polished, “La Vie Boheme” a highlight for me for the whole ensemble may I add, “I Should Tell You “with Roger and “Without You” were just a joy to watch, to see and to listen to.  She was indeed the perfect Mimi. She was stunning, vocally, and visually, and her love for this role and her acting in it blew both myself and the audience away. This is only the beginning for this young lady, and I wish her well.  BRAVO.    Angel played by Michael Cruz. Well, what can I say. Words do fail me here. – it’s very rare for me to cry as a member of an audience, but cry I did as I watched this fantastic performance from Mr Michael Cruz of this beautiful human being called Angel who falls passionately in love with Mr Tom Collins (played by Chris Currid). This young man oozes class and talent and your love of this role bounced off stage from the moment you made your entrance in “You Okay Honey” with The Preachers and Collins. What a vision! I loved what he did with this role and the character he created in the process. The drumsticks playing in ‘Today 4 U’ on the buckets – so slick so perfect and visually in this role he was wonderful. A great singing voice and loads of passion. Mr Cruz sang with ease and his love for Tom Collins was obvious from the second he set eyes on him on stage.. I personally will remember Mr Cruz in this role and the beautiful character he created for us all for a very long time.  A magnificent performance Mr Cruz. Congratulations.    Tom Collins was played by Mr Chris Currid and how this part suited him. He looked great, acted beautifully and there was a lovely link between himself and Angel – the person who he falls in love with – or they fall in love with each other to be more correct – Mr Currid I loved your portrayal of Mr Collins. Not overplayed, no drama, just a lovely man who found the love of his life after been beaten up one and night was saved by Angel, he bought you a coat, minded you until you were well and then fell in love. This was a wonderful combination of two actors extremely talented vocally and in acting and this lovely relationship / friendship was one of the more quiet less dramatic relationships to flourish between these two men. Collins (Mr Currid) is no stranger to stage, and he worked the stage very well never masking or hiding and always aware of other people around him. This gentleman has a wonderful confident and very strong stage presence. When Mr Currid sang his solo in ‘ I’ll Cover you – Reprise’ you could hear people breathing in the silence and the emotionally filled theatre. You could literally hear a pin drop . I was watching so many in the audience wiping their eyes . it was incredible.     Benny played by Richard O’Toole came across very well as the affluent new landlord and although this is a small role it is also a very important one as it shows the different contrasts between the tenants and the landlord You could see he had done well for himself but also was still a part of the ‘old group’. Subtle touches were that he paid for Angels Funeral, and I really like his voice his singing in Happy New Year and Goodbye love was of note.   A beautiful performance and as already mentioned above, with a lovely singing voice. I really took to you as Benny. And I liked your performance a lot.     Joanne was played by Maria Forrest. What a beautiful singing voice this lady has. Ms Forrest has a very commanding stage presence and works the stage effortlessly with great movement and a lovely confidence. Her singing is very strong, and her interactions with Maureen (Roisin Currid) were really good. They had a great bond and I particularly make reference to “Take Me Or Leave Me” a magnificent combination of two wonderful voices singing together beautifully in what I can only imagine is a very difficult piece to pull off correctly and with confidence. What a fantastic performance from both Joanne (Ms Forrest) and Maureen (Ms Currid) in this number. It flew off the stage!. So sassy, and lovely harmonies. These two ladies are both great in each role however “Take Me Or Leave Me” showed how their voices blended so well together. Joanne was very secure in this role. It suited her and there was excellent rapport between her and her love interest Maureen. Her solo “We’re Okay” was very strong and this was a part very well cast and played very well by Ms Forrest. A very strong Joanne, and I enjoyed your performance immensely.   Maureen was played by Roisin Currid. A blonde bombshell who performed one of the highlights of the evening in her performance of “Over The Moon”. Now I know how difficult a piece this must be in movement, acting, singing, comedy, and vocally and Ms Currid played a blinder in all these areas. Great costume – loved the “Warning Signs” across your chest and the cow hide skirt – extremely effective and your eye contact and interactions with others onstage was professional and flawless.  Singing was well projected and clear. You have a beautiful tone your warm personality shone throughout the show.  “La Vie Boheme B”, “Happy New Year A & B,” and “Goodbye Love” were superbly sung. A super actress and singer who played and made the part of Maureen her own . Well done you. 
 I must specifically draw attention to and mention the Ensemble Singing in this show. It was powerful. The sound that emulated from the stage for the larger numbers was out of this world. From “Another Day” with Mimi, Roger and the Company, to Sante Fe, Christmas Bells, La Vie Boheme A &; B, “Contact” with Angel and Company, the glorious “Seasons of Love” Full company for the Opening of Act 2, “I’ll Cover You” Collins and Company, “Seasons of Love B” and Finale B – Full Company was stunning.   
 The sound that projected throughout the Theatre was electrifying. I wanted the Company to come on again and again and just sing such was the magnificent sound created in all the above numbers and indeed throughout the show. There is a cast I have been told of less than 40. This cast sounded like a cast of 200.  Again I found myself with tears in my eyes at the Company’s rendition of “No Day But Today”. I wanted to be able to press “Repeat” button. This and the Finale B I did not want to end.   
 Front of House was impeccably run. I was looked after for the evening by Southeast Chairperson Mr. Rob Donnelly. There was a palpable buzz outside the Theatre before the doors opened and then once inside the beautiful foyer there was chatting and laughter and meeting up of friends and an excitement and anticipation of what this evening would bring us. Front of House is an extremely organised ship with a team at every turn making sure everyone was looked after, given programmes, and seen to their seats. A special mention also to Mr Ronan P. Byrne, who was everywhere when needed, unflappable, keeping all the cogs of the wheel moving along smoothly. A role earned with experience and very notably well done. I loved this show. It was an emotional rollercoaster played by such a super talented cast and production team. 
 You are a truly amazing troupe of people and I anticipate many more shows in your futures but most importantly for now especially, is the vision, you all made happen, and created, and brought to life here with YOUR group - North Wexford Musical Theatre /   NWMT RENT this week.      Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator   Some photos kindly shared by the society to accompany the review: Photographer: Darragh Carroll


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