Alice In Wonderland

For the David Hennessy Junior Stage School production of the Disney Broadway Junior Collection – Alice In Wonderland, the set designed Paul Barry created a Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah place of wonderment and happiness. There was a trickling stream of real water, real goldfish in a nearby bowl, fantastic houses, rabbit holes, tables where stacks of sandwiches could and did pop-up. Add to this the most colourful of costumes from Avril Musgrave and Elaine Tighe, Paul Brown’s sea of lights and excellent make-up from Ali Murphy. And a cast of young principals and a host of young performers to make this show the best sixty minutes of song, music, acting and antics you will see, if you were lucky enough to have a ticket.

I was wowed and double wowed and triple wowed and amazed at the talent and ability on show and feel certain that there is not a professional panto or seasonal show in the country to match this Alice for excitement and exuberance.

While the story is well known, this Junior Disney Show was new to me and the American songs just zipped by with verve and show business.

There were three Alices involved – Megan McCann (Alice – dare I say – ‘Medium’ Alice); Clodagh Meehan (Alice ‘Small’) and Aileen Noonan (Alice ‘Tall’) and they were endearing and excellent. Three Cheshire Cats were link parts throughout the action and Lauren Cardiff, Sinead Lyons and Katie McAuliffe shown and beamed with feline style.

Sarah Power was a standout star as The White Rabbit on Heelies and she zipped in and out with fun and precision. Luke O’Mahony and Laura Nolan were memorable Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Shane Mooney was impressive as a G & S Dodo Bird. Ian McCarthy was a Doorknob and Ciara Donegan, Sophie Rowe, Ciara Murphy, Heather Ryan, Emily Cox, Mide Ryan, Hayley O’Brien and Holly Ryan were colourful Cards.

Niamh Bolger was wonderful as a bossy Queen Of Hearts and Evan O’Hanlon was a feisty King Of Hearts. A sextet of singers, Vicki Sheridan, Aoife O’Neill, Amy Keegan, Cliona O’Keeffe, Rachel Coady and Orlaith McAuliffe brought great sparkle to big musical numbers.

Denver Cuss was splendid as Caterpillar and a changeling Butterfly. Allana O’Neill was a suitable March hare and mark Kennedy excelled as a splendid Mad Hatter.

Other parts, were played by, Luke Nugent, Sarah Corcoran, Ciara Giles, Aisling Giles, Rebecca Taheny and Rachel Corcoran.

David Hennessy directed and choreographed with skill and style.

Massed Bands of Waterford

The finale after a long but entertaining evening of the Charity Christmas Concert in the presence of Her Worship Cllr Mary O’Halloran, Mayor of Waterford, at the Sacred Heart Church last Friday was a stirring emotional highlight when the Massed Bands Of Waterford joined for a pensive Band Of Brothers and a sensational Highland Cathedral.

The De La Salle Scout Band, the Waterford City Pipe Band, City Of Waterford Brass, Thomas Francis Meagher Fife And Drum, Barrack Street Concert Band and the WIT Youth Orchestra came together with choirs and guests to provide a unique blend of musical talents.

The two pipe bands opened the evening with an impressive march-in and down the aisle with a rattle of drum and hum of pipes for a sprightly Scotland The Brave, a brilliantly drummed Amazing Grace and they exited the church, out into the street, the music of The Dawning Of The Day fading to an echo.

The St. Ursula’s Primary Choir got the audience in a sing-along mood for White Christmas and the City Of Waterford Brass, under the baton of Julie Quinlan, rocked up an Elvis, a clever Circle Of Life with vocal additions, and a fine Christmas medley.

Caroline and Vanessa Sadlier added a touch of soprano class with the Sarah Brightman hit Con Te Partiro and a glorious Recuerdame. Una McSweeney accompanied them on Harp.

The T. F. Meagher Fife And Drum stirred the blood and the memory with Imperial marches and a complicated but clappy Controversy with Sean Kavanagh, aged eight, on triangle. Jenny Burns excelled on two fine flute pieces, The Coolin and Lonesome Boatman.

Rebecca McCarty Kent and Eoin Ducrot made sweet music on a Double Violin Concerto before the Barrack Street Concert Band took us on a trip to the movies with music from John Barry, Moulin Rouge and Chicago where the sax line was sweet and low-down wonderful.

Dick Hayes wowed the audience with Holy Night and a tribute to Denny Corcoran with Denny’s song My City Of Music. The audience stood and applauded long and strong.

Then it was speeches with organiser Ger O’Brien getting emotional before we were swept into the maelstrom of the combined massed bands. Amazing stuff.

Frankie King and Tom Russell, of Frontline Audio Visual Ltd., did excellent work getting mics set up and moving them to facilitate the various acts. Liam Walsh compered with style.

The Recruiting Officer

Dublin theatres who compete with the big budget panto – and professional panto – has to be big budget – have set a pattern of spectacle. The Abbey Theatre has decided to offer a Restoration comedy – The Recruiting Officer – a 1706 play by Derry playwright, George Farquhar, who was an actual recruiter when his acting and literary career hit a lull. Directed by Lynne Parker, this should have been a scarlet-coated romp with drums, dragoons and draftees plus a dancing bear. A dancing bear is to Restoration theatre what a Dame is to panto. But this large cast play has only a stuffed bear on wheels, not enough scarlet-coated men, some stuffed shirts, some judges on pedestals, a statue of a soldier on horseback and a lady pretending to be an officer in a red uniform. Bah humbug.

For long periods you had lots of dull dialogue delivered by actors who didn’t seem to want to play parts just do posh lines. Not enough strut, or swagger, and not enough fun to pull a cracker with.

Parker moved the action to Ireland rather than England so we got those stock in stockings yokels who do Oirish buffoon almost as well as Derry Power do it. The pace was too worthy and needed a rapier up the jacksey. Periodic period jokes fell flat and while I didn’t expect farce I expected pace and a wicked sense of satire. Is there some unwritten rule that the National Theatre has to be so pompous and get academics to write guff in the programme. One professor said that the director was bringing Farquhar back home, giving a new twist to this funny, edgy, sharp comedy of men, women and a war in the distance. Bah humbug.

Still the Abbey can use the best of actors and I did like Denis Conway as a conniving Justice. Fergus McElherron was much fun as was Derry Power and Janet Moran was great. Garrett Lombard wasn’t comic enough for Sergeant Kite and his fortune-teller scene was lacking in comic timing and rapport. Declan Conlon played posh only Miche Doherty wasn’t funny or farcical enough.

And why, oh why, have a lady in the pit playing a piano and banging a drum as well. Oops she wrote the original music but I needed a drummer boy or two in resplendent red.

Great Expectations

The Gate Theatre has had some excellent Christmas fare in recent years and a Hugh Leonard adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations should be enough to whet the seasonal appetite but unfortunately my great expectations went a little unfulfilled. This was a much greyer and bleaker production and this longish first act has a lot of exposition and no enough tasty moments or great characters. A red false proscenium and painted red front curtain suggested seasonal cheer and larks (Joe Gargery says – What Larks?). Behind that was a composite set mostly grey and monochrome and the colour was further drained out by great chunks of exposition and dullness. Dickens is rarely dull, not even in Bleak House.

Casting was a problem with early characters lacking in gusto or largeness and again there is a lot more to acting than just delivering lines. M. Havisham was a bit young in character, for example.

Another problem was the lack of spectacle like the boat chase and the fire at Havishams. The lighting was iffy, the sound-effects laughable as sausages roasting on a fire and if pantos can import effects like Qdos, why can’t the Gate? Or at least make the spectacle work . . .

Stars of the evening and they make a visit to the Gate a treat were: Bryan Murray a Jaggers, Mark O’Regan as Wemmick, Kelly Campbell as Mrs. Joe/Biddy. I did enjoy barry Cassin as The Aged Parent.