The beginning of March is traditionally a time of hope. Spring is in the air, Easter and St Patrick’s Day are not too far away, days are getting longer, and Letterkenny Musical Society is about to take to the stage.
Last year, Annie was a sellout, and this year promises to repeat that feat, as LMS present one of the best loved musicals ever – Oliver. Based on the novel “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, the show features classic after classic, starting with “Food, Glorious Food”, and not letting up.
You know the story, Oliver is a 13-year-old boy whose mother died giving birth to him at the Workhouse. Then, one fateful day, he asks the cruel Mr Bumble who runs the orphanage for more gruel, a transgression which sees him sold into an apprenticeship with an undertaker. Very soon though, he runs away, and ends up in a London ghetto with cheery criminal Fagin and his gang of juvenile pickpockets, led by the Artful Dodger.
Fagin’s kitchen isn’t all sweetness and light though. Bill Sykes, a previous protégé of Fagin, is a constant, menacing presence, and not even the cheerful aura of his girlfriend Nancy and her friend Bet can breach the aura of evil which surrounds him.
Fagin attempts to turn Oliver into a crook, but his first job goes wrong, and he ends up in the care of Mr Brownlow. Then............well, we’ve said enough already. Just come to the show for the rest of the story.
This is the first time that the LMS has repeated a show in An Grianan Theatre. In December 2000, the society presented Oliver, directed back then by Paddy O’Connor and produced by Danny Mc Glinchey. That version set the bar very high indeed, and the challenge now is, ast the very least, to match it. Once again, Billy Patterson takes the director’s chair, as well as returning to the boards. Ciara Gilmour takes over choreography this year, a brave move when the first challenge is to organise over 20 young boys. It’s a challenge she has met with aplomb. Gerard Bradley is once again the musical director, and Noel O’Donnell as producer is the glue that holds the whole shebang together.
On stage, as ever, it’s a mix of new talent and familiar faces. Oliver and Artful Dodger are played by two local students, Ruarí Lafferty and Patrick Quinn, and are backed by over 20 young boys, many of them making their stage debuts. Fagin is played by Billy Patterson, who was tremendous in the role in 2000, and is set to repeat that feat in 2012.
Nancy is played by LMS stalwart Nicola Mc Bride, while her friend Bet is played by Katie Porter, who understudied the role of Annie last year. Donal Kavanagh reprises the role of Mr Bumble, while Maria Heekin puts in a stellar performance as the Widow Corney on whom Bumble is casting a romantic eye.
Jean Curran plays Mrs Bedwin, Mr Brownlow’s housekeeper, Giles Murray underlines his comedic skills as Dr Grimwig, Eileen Bannan and Maura Cavanagh make a welcome return as Sally and Annie, while as well as choreographing, Ciara Gilmore plays Charlotte Sowerberry, the undertaker’s daughter. The rest of the Sowerberry ensemble is played by newcomers to LMS, but not to the An Grianan stage.
Sheila McCarthy puts in a tremendous performance as Mrs Sowerberry, while Niall McDonagh plays her creepy but henpecked husband.
The remaining two principals regularly work on the technical end in An Grianan, and it’ll be good to see them on the other side of the stage. Phil Ruddock plays Bill Sykes, while Paul Rooney is Sowerberry’s apprentice Noah Claypole.
So the cast is in place, the production team is ready to roll, and the orchestra members are studying their scores. If music be the food of love, then prepare for a veritable feast. “Food, Glorious Food”, “You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two”, “I’d Do Anything”, “Oohm Pah Pah”, “Who Will Buy?” and more much loved songs are the soundtrack to a timeless story, beautifully acted.
The show opens in An Grianan on Tuesday, March 6, running nightly at 8pm until Saturday March 10, with a matinee on Saturday afternoon.
Tickets are priced €14 and €12, from the An Grianan box office, telephone 074 912 0777, or book online at www.angrianan.com