Paddy – Bord Gais Energy Theatre -Preview by Fran Winston
20 Sep 2016 – 22 Sep 2016 – €15 – €45
Of all the theatrical art forms, musicals are one of the most expensive to stage. This is why you rarely see new productions and also why there are so many “jukebox musicals” piggybacking on the popularity of well known artists by using their music and shoehorning a story into it.
Even rarer than a new musical is an Irish musical. On the whole it is not something Irish artists attempt. Despite our rich musical and theatrical background for some reason we have been rather lax in this department. If you count Riverdance as a musical (I don’t) then we can be said to have enjoyed some success in this field but even the next musical production from the same creators; The Pirate Queen was a spectacular flop. A new work called the Ha’Penny Bridge was launched to great fanfare over a decade ago only to sink without trace and Once has now become so international that it can hardly be called a solely Irish production.
Step forward Tommy Fleming, the multi million selling troubadour. He has long wanted to break into the field of musical drama and along with singer/songwriter Gerry Carney and playwright and broadcaster Tommy Marren, he has created a new musical called simply Paddy.
Dealing with the theme of emigration in Ireland in the 60s it follows one Irishman on his journey to London where he hopes to make a better life but soon falls into the traps of previous generations of Irish immigrants. In total the show spans 25 years in Ireland and the UK and takes in all the highs and lows faced by the men who were in this situation.
Rather than open in a blaze of fanfare, the show has been touring venues countrywide and finding its feet before it hits the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square from 20th – 22nd September. The cast and crew recently treated a few invited guests to a preview of the production and while that was a mere 30 minutes it gave a real flavour of the show. This isn’t a big show-stopper with lavish musical numbers but rather a gentle and thoughtful production with songs that sound as if they have been around for decades even though they were written for the show.
Although the theme of the musical is supposed to be emigration from what we saw there is also a very strong underlying theme of alcoholism and the perils of drinking. While this is worthy, and indeed a lot of the male Irish emigrants of this era did indeed have issues with alcohol, I would hope that it doesn’t become the overriding story as emigration is complex enough without adding other things into the mix.
From what I saw this has a lot of heart and the cast and crew are clearly all passionate about it, which comes across in the performances. I have no doubt that it will find an audience as aside from anything else Fleming has a huge fan base. However I am not sure how well it will travel outside of Ireland having not seen it in its entirety. If it doesn’t resort to “Paddywhakery” it could do quite well particularly with ex-pats in the UK.
If nothing else this is a chance to see a burgeoning musical which may go on to do great things and that is an opportunity that doesn’t come up too often. Definitely worth a look hopefully as more than a curiosity piece I eagerly await seeing the full show in all its glory.