At the opening night, of a three-day run at the Theatre Royal of Michael Grant’s Royal variety Performance, there was theatrical royalty in the audience. Anna Manahan and Larry Fanning graced the stalls and Hannah Daniels and her friend came down from the Gods to preside over the Balcony. Des Manahan sang, John Thompson hovered like Lazarus and the glorious spirit of the late great Dermot Graham was celebrated.
The format is the variety version of two tops shows, with a little too much content or under-rehearsed content and a changing bill of key performers. But it was a night where nostalgia and comedy were kings.
Subtitled Music Madness A Mayhem, the first half has three pieces to showcase the young peoples theatre schools. David Hennessy’s School reprised a Seussical sequence, Gary Power’s young stars did Annie and the Richie Hayes School were electric with a snatch of Hairspray. Ciara Moloney and Glen Murphy who were excellent in Michael Collins really impressed with their ability and ringadingding enthusiasm.
And excerpt from Bryan Flynn’s musical added class to the first half, as did Sweeney Toddlers. But it was the comedy that brought the house down, despite a duff Deise parody from Conor Halpin. Am hilarious Up For The Match had the clever inclusion of Deise heroes Eoin Kelly and John Mullane. Davy Sutton is a legend and with Scol Grant he made fresh fun with Nervous Sheamus and his Irish Dancer was a howl with Grant and Tony Corcoran. Once again in a contemporary tourist sketch he was exceptional with Brian Collins and Conor Halpin. Flaggy Lane closed the first half.
The second half had a rehashed and under-rehearsed feel about it, but individual talent shone out. Conor Halpin was at his drollest about marriage and Gabrielle Cummins, Vicki Graham, Megan Cassidy and Lisa Caulfield made beautiful Broadway business. Graham and Cummins soared on Defying Gravity from Wicked.
Michelle Glendon was the much ut upon teacher who had to contend with a Nativity play with a difference. Again Davy Sutton was stellar.
Jamie Beamish was in splendid form on Sondheim’s quixotic, Send In The Clowns as a tribute to Dermot Graham wove a coloured cloth of nostalgia. The projected cast list from Crystal’s 1975 Joseph had too many RIPs for comfort. Des Manahan was magnificent in songs like I Won’t Send Roses and Those Canaan Days. Vicki Graham shone as did Katie Honan and Mick Quinlan in Benjamin’s Calypso. David Flynn sang any Dream Will Do and Rocky Mills was All Shook Up.
David Hennessy rocked the house with an almost full-on assault on The Full Monty and the evening closed quietly on One Voice, but there were many voices in different tunes. The auditorium was warm and wonderful and a capacity audience loved the show.