OPENING SHOW Michael Coen (Professor Henry Higgins) and Ailbhe Doherty (Eliza Doolittle) are pictured during Sunday’s matinee performance of ‘My Fair Lady’ by Ballinrobe Musical Society. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
THE decision of Ballinrobe Musical Society to stage ‘My Fair Lady’ this year seems to have been an inspired one, based on the reaction of a full house to the opening night’s brilliant performance on Sunday.
The cast and crew of the popular South Mayo society are no strangers to standing ovations over the years, and they were fully deserving of the audience’s appreciation this time around too.
Twenty-five years on from the society’s last production of the timeless classic, the class of 2018 put on quite a show with Ailbhe Doherty (Eliza Doolittle), the name on everybody’s lips after the talented teenager delivered a virtuoso performance.
The 18 year-old Leaving Cert student from Clonbur belied her tender years as she captivated the audience with her beautiful voice and nerveless all-round display.
The ‘double act’ of Michael Coen (Professor Henry Higgins) and Richard Crumlish (Colonel Pickering) also dovetailed superbly and struck up a cracking partnership.
Coen’s versatility never ceases to amaze and his portrayal of Eliza’s emotionally-detached mentor, and eloquence of his exhausting dialogue, was as impressive as it was authentic.
He also treated us to a string of songs that showcased his distinctive voice and is now, unquestionably, the Society’s ‘Mr Consistent’.
The comic turn was provided by Niall Conway (Alfred P Doolittle) who played the part of a larger-than-life Londoner terrifically well, and stole every scene he was in.
His cockney accent wouldn’t have been out of place in an episode of ‘Eastenders’ and Conway’s rendition of ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’ was worth the admission price alone! John Byrne (Freddy Eysnford-Hill), Ronan Egan (Jamie) and Donna Ruane (Mrs Higgins) also caught the eye and the ear.
So too did society stalwarts Michael Sweeney (Harry) and Siobhan Campbell (Mrs Pearce) who put their own distinctive stamp on their roles.
The large chorus groups weren’t found wanting either with Mike Ansbro, John Conroy, Tom Byrne and Ciaran Hennelly front and centre when it came to singing and dancing.
Likewise, Collette Concannon, Catherine Conway and Aileen Feely.
There’s no doubt that the return of some familiar faces from musicals past (like Gerry Hughes, Eugene O’Malley, Noel Ansbro, Tony Walkin Snr, Roddy Moran and Assumpta Quinn) was a reminder of what makes Ballinrobe Musical Society so special.
The camaraderie among the cast and crew was palpable, with months of hard work paying off in spades.
Meanwhile, scenic artist Michelle Conroy had done a magnificent job while stage manager John O’Shea and his crew, along with set construction manager, Kenneth McCarthy, delivered the goods as always with a compact and slick set.
The experience and craft of Peter Kennedy (Director), Finola Higgins (Musical Director) and Aoife McClafferty (Choreographer) was also evident from start to finish.
And, like always, Ballinrobe Musical Society weren’t found wanting when it came to the hosting and presentation side of things.
Their experienced ‘Front of House’ staff were professionalism personified (led by their evergreen manager, Seán Costello Snr) while a huge team of volunteers and professionals worked diligently behind the scenes to make sure everything ran like clockwork.
Our advice? Try and snap up some of the remaining tickets for one of the shows this week.‘My Fair Lady’ runs until Saturday night at Ballinrobe Community School.
All concerned can take a bow!