Galway Musical Society celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in swinging style next week with a staging of the sublime Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes, at the Town Hall.
Set aboard an ocean liner en route from New York to London, this is a musical that invites audiences onboard for a magical mix of sublime tunes, heady romance, devious mobsters, upper class toffs, comic capers, tap-dancing sailors and all round high jinks on the high seas. The show features some of Porter’s best-loved songs, such as ‘I Get A Kick Out of You’, ‘It’s De-Lovely’, ‘All Through the Night’, ‘You’re the Top’, and, of course, the title track itself.
The GMS production is directed by Sean and Brian Power and, as he looked forward to the show’s opening, Sean reflected on the Society’s story so far. “It’s hard to believe we’ve racked up thirty years already,” he muses. “It was in 1985 that myself, Brian, and Joe McCarthy got together with the idea of forming a musical society to cater for the young people who were keen to be involved in musical theatre, to have something they could do.”
The Galway Musical Society had its origins in the Renmore Panto. By 1985, the Panto was entering its seventh year and the older teenagers were getting restless. They wanted something different. Joe McCarthy promised them Grease if they stuck with the Panto. They did and afterwards the Power Twins arrived at Joe’s door. What about that promise of Grease? So the Renmore Musical Society (later changed to GMS ) was launched with Joe McCarthy serving as director and the Power twins doing choreography
It all started with Grease
“We put on Grease in May, 1985, at the Jesuit Hall, which was the main theatre space in Galway at the time,” Sean continues. “The show was a huge success. The Corporation was impressed with the production and passed a vote of congratulations. They then asked us would we head up a summer theatre programme they were planning for Leisureland so we brought Grease back for another run there which went really well. In the following years we went on to do Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, all the big iconic shows. Joe McCarthy was the original director, then Pat Heaney got involved, he was very closely associated with the Association of Irish Musical Societies (AIMS ). Joe asked Pat to give it the backbone we needed to structure ourselves as a proper musical society. He invited Paddy Daly in as chorus master and he has been chorus master on most of our shows since. Brian and myself have been choreographers from the outset and we took over directing the shows in 1994.”
Since those far off ‘summer nights’ of Grease, Galway Musical Society has firmly established itself as part of the city’s arts fabric and has won multiple awards down the years from AIMS for its productions. “The Society has grown over the years,” Sean notes. “Previous members have come back to be involved as patrons and this year some have even returned as performers to mark our 30th anniversary. We’re still an amateur society but we have a professional attitude. There is a really good group of people involved in both the creative and producing sides which enables us to put on shows of a high standard.”
And so to Anything Goes. The songs are instantly recognisable but audiences might be less familiar with the show’s storyline. “It’s the age-old story of boy meets girl and the complications that go with that,” Sean explains. “It’s one of those shows that treats the subject matter very well, it is fun and light-hearted. The main character, Billie Crocker, is a New York stockbroker who falls in love at first sight with a girl called Hope Harcourt. However she is already engaged to an English aristocrat, Lord Oakleigh. Billy learns that Hope is sailing to England and sneaks onto the boat to try and win her love. There are lots of identity mix ups and comedy elements in the show stem from. There are great characters like Moonface Martin, he’s public enemy number 13 but wants to be public enemy number 1. You also have Hope’s mother Gillian who’s desperate for her to marry into the upper class, and Reno Sweeney, an evangelist turned nightclub singer.”
I ask Sean are there any special challenges in staging a show from the classic era of song and dance. “The tap dancing routines are among the challenges of the show,” he replies. “It is an area we haven’t done in a few years and there is a lot of tap-dancing in this show. It also has swing dancing. The production has one of our best front lines in a while, it’s an area that Brian and I always take our time in casting, looking for the right person to fit the parts. Billy is being played by Michael Evans, he is a Dubliner, he only got involved in the last few weeks because Kenneth Kennedy who had been cast in the role had to opt out due to work commitments. It’s a role that has what in music theatre called a ‘triple threat’, because you have to sing, dance and act and it’s difficult to find performers who combine all three skills so we found Michael who was keen to come to Galway and work with us and he can do all three and is very sophisticated and is a really good mover onstage. He brings a lot to the show.”
Former Rose takes to the stage
Also bringing a lot to the show are the other principals. They include Roisin Egenton (AIMS award winner 2008 as Best Comedienne, and former Rose of Tralee ) as Reno Sweeney, the character who gets to sing ‘I Get A Kick Out of You’. Hope Harcourt is played by Megan Lohan, her mother Gillian is played by Ailbhe Slevin and Sean Hosty takes the role of Lord Oakleigh. Gangster Moonface Martin is played by Nicky and the obligatory gangster’s moll, Irma, a delightfully comic role, is taken by Edel Garvey. In all, Anything Goes boasts a cast of 47 performers, as well as a 10-piece orchestra under the baton of Shane Farrell. Paddy Daly is chorus master and Clare Rigney is choreographer.
Town Hall audiences can be sure to ‘get a kick out of’ Anything Goes when it hits the stage next week. It runs from Tuesday, March 24th, to Saturday, March 28th, at 8pm nightly. There is also a 3pm matinee performance on the Saturday. Booking from www.tht.ie or 091-569777. — CMcB