It all began over a chat during a night shift in the Tannery almost 40 years ago. Freddy Kelly, Billy Corcoran and Bill Furlong (all deceased, sadly) and Freddie Laffan – still very much alive and kicking – were taking stock, lamenting the decline of the ‘Tops of the Streets’.
All four agreed that something had to plug that sizeable gap in the village’s social and entertainment calendar, an event which would bring the residents of the various streets and surrounding areas together: purely driven by fun, and not by the competitive sense which had crept into the ‘Tops’.
So in October 1980, when Irish mortgage interest rates stood at 14 per cent, when Post-It notes first arrived on the market, and just eight weeks before John Lennon was gunned down in New York, a public meeting was held in Portlaw to see what could be done.
This in turn led to the foundation of Portlaw Musical Society and four months later, in February 1981, ‘Cinderella’ was staged in the Premier Hall.
Thirty-seven years later, and with the Junior Musical Society now eight years young, the show remains on the road by the banks of the Clodiagh, with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ being staged this Thursday, February 1st (2nd and 3rd at 8pm), through to Sunday’s matinee at 4pm.
Somewhat remarkably, this is the first time the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story will be brought to life by Portlaw Musical Society. ‘Cinderella’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Old King Cole’ have been staged on four separate occasions, while ‘Red Riding Hood’, ‘Mother Goose’, ‘Sinbad’ and ‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ have had three different run-outs at the Premier Hall. ‘Beauty & The Beast’ has twice been staged while the one-offs remain ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Babes In The Wood’, ‘The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe’, ‘Robin Hood Meets Frankenstein’, ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’, ‘Hansel & Gretel’ and ‘Ali Baba & The 40 Thieves’.
With local gallows aplenty certain to filter into the on-stage ping pong (!), this year’s pantomime is produced by Damien Walsh, with Damien O’Brien (keyboard) as Musical Director, fronting the pantomime band which features Dylan Bible (guitar), Alan Coonagh (saxophone) and Jarlath McKenna (drums), while Jenny Larkin and Ursula Sullivan will be singing from the pit.
Sharon O’Brien has choreographed this year’s pantomime; meanwhile, Claire Cully filling the Chorus Mistress’s (and Rehearsal Pianist’s) boots. A great week undoubtedly awaits at the Premier Hall, so best of luck to the cast who will have us rolling in the aisles once more!
* Booking for ‘Sleeping Beauty’ from tomorrow, Wednesday, January 31st is available between 3 and 5.30pm on 086-0519210. Tickets are priced €12 for adults and €8 for children.