There was no blast of trumpets, no fanfare, just a great feeling of welcome, a wonderful feeling of community and neighbourly satisfaction like a harvest saved for the grand opening of The Strand Theatre in Carrick-on-Suir.
As Dr. Martin Mansergh T.D., Minister of State in the Dept. of Arts, Sports and Tourism, so rightly said it was a re-opening of a refurbished place of community entertainment as he performed the formal ceremony.
This occasion was the culmination and continuation of the generous dreams of people like Dick Meany, Padraig Sheehan, Alice Hennessy and the members of Carrick-on-Suir Musical Society. It is a testament to belief, faith and hard work to the fostering of the arts and musical theatre in a town justly proud of a remarkable musical tradition.
It is a wonderful building on two levels, warm and inviting, with a comfortable auditorium, adequate stage, fine backstage area, a scenery construction area, a rehearsal space, a reception area, a lift, good toilets and plenty of space for meetings, exhibitions, readings, studio performances, all on the banks of the river Suir.
It was great to see and renew old acquaintances like the wonderful Peg Power, Tom Nealon, Paddy Finnucane. The poet and chronicler of Carrick, Michael Coady was in fine form and you could feel the pride.
The Society performed a brilliant concert under the direction of Dick Meany, musical direction of Fergal Carroll and choral direction of Catriona O’Dwyer. The show is the thing and this was a memorable showcase that remembered the light opera and pantomime early days, saluted present day talent and gave the future generation a place of honour. Absent Friends were remembered and an audience gently reminded that there is a loan of €400,000 to be repaid.
What A Feast from Die Fledermaus set the tone and Hail Poetry from The Pirates Of Penzance reminded – for what, we ask, is life without a touch of Poetry in it?
Cherry Betts marked the fulfilment of many dreams with I Dreamed A Dream and Liam Butler underlined the possibilities with The Impossible Dream. Dermot Keyes was a revelation with the quality of his voice in M’appari from Martha. Triona O’Callaghan touched on the camaraderie of theatre with a beautiful Someone To Watch Over Me.
The youthful Michael O’Dwyer, looking like Lee Mead, gave us a colourful Dreamcoat. The powerful chorus proclaimed the endurance of theatre with One Day More and Irene Malone wowed the audience with a generous measure of sentiment with We’ll Meet Again.