XxxAs the Pirate Queen gets ready to depart from Ballinrobe, the town and surrounding areas know that what they witnessed in the Ballinrobe Community School hall, if they were fortunate enough to do so, was simply stunning.
From the moment the lights went down and the sets became illuminated, you knew something special was about to unfold before your eyes.
It’s easy to be patronising when writing a review of a performance, especially from an amateur production company, but what the Ballinrobe music society achieved with this particular show was nothing short of spectacular.
It would hold its own on any Broadway or West End stage given the calibre of performances. The sets were amazing, costumes worth every penny and endless hours of rehearsal paid off in spades.
It’s no wonder there were emotional scenes in the south Mayo capital as music legend Claude Michel Schönberg, who wrote the music for the show, heaped praise on the cast and crew.
His visit was likened to a visit by Alex Ferguson to an under six soccer match and that’s how much it meant to those involved in this exquisite production.
Mr Schönberg was amazed by the fact that all on stage did so ‘purely for the love of the music,’ and so too were the thousands who have already seen this magical production brought to life by the west’s finest amateur performers. He said this love transmitted itself throughout the show. He was also complimentary about the fact that the society repeats this huge effort year after year but its difficult to see how such a magnificent performance could ever be topped by this group.
What made the show so special was its origins in the history of the rugged west of Ireland. It tells the story of Mayo’s famous warrior Grace O’Malley, one of the most fascinating figures in Irish history. A bit of a wild woman she rejected the traditional role prescribed for women of her time and instead set about defending her country gaining her notoriety across the water.
Sinead Heneghan was simply stunning as Granuaile - the passionate, defiant woman of the west. Her love interest Tiernan was played by local man Sean Costello who needs no introduction and whose performance was as usual world class.
This was matched by Sandra Schalks who depicted a very noble Queen Elizabeth I and all of the actors who took to the stage to bring to life the story of the Pirate Queen.
While 5,000 people will have enjoyed the show by the time the curtain finally falls, the only shame is 5,000 more won’t have the opportunity to witness a world-class performance of this world amateur premier.
With spontaneous standing ovations night after night, the pure adrenaline and knowledge that the cast were involved in something awe-inspiring will have kept the dedicated performers and crew going through 10 gruelling nights.
The story could never have come to life if it weren’t for John McColgan and Moya Doherty of Riverdance fame who originally brought the show to Broadway and the musical genius of Alan Boublil and Claude Michel Schönberg, who penned Lés Miserábles and Miss Saigon.
Conductor John Roe made sure their musical genius was brought to life in Ballinrobe in what could be considered the finest musical production ever to take to the stage in Ireland.
Congratulations to all involved.
Toni Bourke Editor [email protected]