Carrick-on-Suir Musical Society are an innovative and achieving group who pride themselves on taking on tasks that others would shirk and to take a classic G & S show like The Mikado and give a swing tone to the music rather than settling for the Hot Mikado is a progressive step and if it wasn’t for the comedic talents of some principals, a gloriously good orchestra (on-stage) and a snappy punchy chorus, this would have been a mishmashhash. Fergal Carroll did wonders with the jazz/swing arrangements but the vocal work of patter songs and English folk tunes does not lend itself to that swing feel. At times some principals were vocally short of expected highlights. That said, it was often an hilarious spoof rather than pastiche and the audience warmed to it, especially the brilliant work of Damien Douglas as Ko-Ko.
But what is swing? This jazz style emerged in the 1930s as the American Depression took hold and Prohibition ended. Public taste changed from big orchestral events to dime-a-dance events and patrons were doing the jitterbug and the lindyhop. Record sales dropped and Benny Goodman became the King Of Swing with a sweeter jazz and less improvisation so to enable dancers to show off. Tommy Dorsey became The Sentimental Gentlemen Of Swing. Curiously Dorsey’s singer Frank Sinatra established the rise of the dominant vocalist and the demise of swing bands in the 1940s.
Jamie Murphy played Nanki-Poo like an American (Cable from South Pacific) and opened with a Gilbert O’Sullivan song (Aw feck he said as he kept breaking into rock tunes during a dodgy Wand’ring Mistrel). I’m not sure why some cast had American accents like Hot Mikado and there wasn’t any particular sense of period to hang the storyline on. Seamus Power, as Hari, looked like Cathal O’Searcaigh in a Bamboo cocktail joint called Hari Kari Hut. The Three Little Maids looked like more mature dolls from Luck Be A Lady and Fergis Power was wonderful as a George Melly style, Pooh-Bah. Triona O’Callaghan was a yummy Yum-Yum. Liam Buitler was a cuddly Mikado and demanded me of the Donald Sutherland hippy tank driver in Kelly’s heroes.
Michael O’Dwyer impressed as Pish-Tush and he will go places with this society. The Little Maids were Helen Hahessy, Catherine Hogan and Louise Mulcahy and they gave the show great local strength.
In the first act I felt that using Irene Malone as a Cruella DeVille-style Katisha, was a mistake but I enjoyed her Hour Of Gladness. But her drunken antics in Alone And Yet Alive were worthy AIMS award and her physical reactions in Tit Willow were splendid as was her work in Beauty In The Bellow.
But it was Damien Douglas as Ko-Ko that carried this show over any doubts or glitches with a stellar scene stealing performance. He carried the audience, he woke up the audience and he entertained with gusto, with bravado and with swing Hot Diggidy Damn.
The new theatre looks splendid and welcoming in its red plush carpeting and they still owe money on it but have a nice fun-raiser. A Name-A-Seat for €350 and get your name engraved on a brass plaque affixed to a seat of their choice.
Next Saturday, St. Michael’s Theatre, new Ross, present SONGBIRDS – a swing show introduced by Kevin Hough of RTE with diva divine vocalist Ellen McEvoy and the David Wray Swing Band featuring songs made hits by Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and Aretha Franklin.