Walking across Dillon Bridge on Friday night, a long line of cars stretched from County Waterford into County Tipperary.
Between 7 and 8pm during ‘show week’ in Carrick-on-Suir, such queuing is both commonplace and to be expected when there’s top class board treading to be enjoyed.
As curtain up beckons (though the curtain wasn’t actually deployed this year), those with tickets in bum pocket are anxious to get said bum onto theatre seat before ‘The Mikado With A Swing’ gets underway.
The discernible theatre goer tries to leave enough time to leaf through the programme (excellent value considering its content) before Musical Director Fergal Carroll strikes up the band to get proceedings underway.
After that, it’s just a matter of sitting back, relaxing and keeping those palms on applause mode, and there was plenty of palm reddening to be enjoyed during this rollicking interpretation of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic.
But before a light had been dimmed, before a note had been struck and before a song had been sung, there was already a star in evidence on the banks of the Suir: the Strand Theatre itself.
Entering the theatre from the bridge was a new experience for a Carrick audience and looking down onto the expanded foyer area, complete with lift, the extent of the theatre’s transformation really struck home.
There’s been a mountain of work done since the autumn pantomime, with the interior of the new front section now fully painted and carpeted.
The upstairs section of the theatre will soon feature a bar, with workshop/rehearsal space already to its rear, thus completing the long-held vision that the Society has held for the venue.
Now, as someone who’d been in and out of the Strand quite a bit these past few years, I’d not put a shadow inside it since the final night of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ a few months back.
And let’s just say the busy Carrick bees working on the interior for the past few months have been busy, busy bees indeed.
The place looked fantastic on Friday night, and forms a magnificent rebuttal to anyone who says ‘there’s nothing in Carrick-on-Suir’.
By golly, there most certainly is something in Carrick and the will of those who summoned this vision from blueprint to bricks and mortar demonstrates that point twice over.
This reporter would hardly been alone in congratulating the Musical Society, in particular its President Padraig Sheehan, for the end product this labour of love now represents.
Of course, dreams like these cost money and the Society must now set about the task of clearing the €350,000 debt that it’s incurred via the transformation of the Strand.
Upon completion, it’s estimated that the project’s total cost will stand at €1.3 million, of which €500,000 has been accrued through fundraising, reflecting the good will of the local community.
A further €400,000 was secured in grants, with the remainder the tally which will now have to be cleared – but no doubt it will.
One of the ways in which the Society hopes to raise further monies is through its ‘Name a Seat’ scheme.
For €350, contributors will have their names engraved on a brass plaque and affixed to a seat of their choice in the theatre and there’s little doubt that this is a novel venture that many will avail of.
Carrick Musical Society now owns a top-class theatrical facility and with several acts including Jon Kenny and Liam Clancy doing what they do best on the Strand stage over the next few months, the future looks decidedly bright.
Next up at the Strand is the Millennium Orchestra on February 19th and with tickets already selling well, those wishing to enjoy an evening of music and song should promptly call the Strand box office at 051 645050.
As for ‘The Mikado With A Swing’? It did exactly what it said on the tin. It swung, it energised its audience and had them laughing and clapping throughout.
And in Damien Douglas as Ko-Ko, the show had a star who made his dialogue dance as well as the chorus line moved.
It was, quite simply, great fun – a fitting testament to the hard work that director Liam Butler, Fergal Carroll and the entire Carrick team invested into the show over the past few months.
From set designers to the pit, from front of house to make-up, bravo to all concerned. A great night’s entertainment was enjoyed by many and here’s to many more.
* For more details on the ‘Name a Seat’ scheme, call Ann J Lonergan on 051 640736 or 087 6772192.