THE PLAYBOY of the Western World has had countless outings and re-imaginings since its 1905 premiere, but few as rollicking and royally entertaining as Justin McCarthy and Diarmuid De Faoite’s musical version running in the Town Hall Theatre until Saturday.
Wittily presented as a live radio show, the play commences with floor manager Muireann Ní Raghallaigh coaching the audience before a home-town cast of Galway’s finest and favourite actors jog onstage bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and bubbling with tunes and brilliancies galore.
‘Six yards of stuff to make a yellow gown' becomes a beautiful introductory ballad from Grace Kiely’s tuneful, whip-smart, and plaintive Pegeen. Diarmuid de Faoite is a treat throughout as her weedy suitor Shawneen Keogh and his 'Pegeeeeeen' song was a rousing audience favourite.
The transition from page to radio musical has a few gaps and jumps; Pegeen and Christy have no scenes together between their first meet and Christy’s triumph at the races, but actually it does not matter because Rod Goodall’s dapper narrator and our own familiarity with the play fill in the gaps. Pegeen’s offstage time enables Widow Quin to dominate and Helen Gregg gives us a bluesy, ballsy, Mayo momma-by-way-of-Mississipi-Delta in her fabulous entrance. Quite apart from her fab gutsy blues singing – which I never realised she had in her locker! - Helen also gets lots of comic mileage from the role with deft visual asides
Despite her offstage time, Pegeen still makes a big impact with her songs and presence, especially with the finale where she dons a guitar and scorchingly sings of her loss. Eoghan Burke/Fia Rua is also a charismatic Christy.
Stop! I’m writing this like a play review, but let me tell you this is a great gig as well, above all! Justin McCarthy takes the familiar Synge speeches and re-mints them as toe-tapping sing-along compelling brilliant songs. He has gathered a great ensemble of local talent to bringing it all to fruition, with Fred McCloskey, Seamus Hughes, Eilish McCarthy, and Eoghan Burke, as well as the abovementioned actors.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie