On Thursday night, November 27th I had the pleasure of attending Cashel Community School’s eighteenth musical production “Me and My Girl”.
Can I say from the outset that anyone luck enough to have been present on the night (I am sure that applies to the other performances as well) were treated to a memorable performance befitting anything seen on the professional stage.
Produced by John Murray, Miriam Ball and Nicola Shiels, with choreography by Miriam Ball and musical direction from maestro Murray, words cannot express my pleasure as I reflect upon a wonderful and marvellous performance by the students.
Set in England in the 1930’s the show is full of raw comedy, singing, and dancing. The cast was totally engaging and pulled off a brilliant rendition of this rather tongue-in-cheek musical. There were some vaudevillian aspects of the play that one would think would be difficult to portray by second level students and they handled it with ease. The group dances and scenes were well carried out and overall it was clearly evident that we were seeing a well-disciplined group of young actors and actresses who were clearly focused on producing a quality performance.
The story, dating from the time when England really did have a class system, concerns Bill Snibson, (Thomas Grogan) a cockney lad who suddenly turns up as the one and only heir of the late 13th Earl of Hareford. Bullied by his domineering aunt, The Dutchess (Michelle Maher) who wants to turn him into a snob, the lively Bill resists all efforts to make him a gentleman, finally winning his cockney sweetheart Sally (Saoirse Fitzgerald) and turning the upper crust upside down in the bargain.
The 1930’s show proved an international hit when it was given an overhaul in the 1980’s, its simple romantic comedy and down-to-earth score making it a refreshing change from the pomp and spectacle of such musical rival as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. The production team deserves high praise for the way in which they balanced the inherent good-heartedness of the show with an eye for both the big production values and a wealth of comic detail.
If they had the vision, they were also blessed with a cast that responded brilliantly to their roles.
First among them must be Thomas Grogan as Bill Snibson, the cheerful cockney who finds himself heir to an earldom with all the associated trappings of wealth and social status. His acting performance was confident and comically accomplished (not bad for someone playing his maiden roll) his singing we know all about and he was on target with a deceptively relaxed ability to blend the songs into his character’s general progress through the show.
Thomas was perfectly matched with Saoirse Fitzgerald as Sally, the sweetheart he risks losing through his elevation to the landed gentry. They made a convincing couple with a vital spark in their scenes together, without which the frail story line was in danger of collapsing. Around them there were ample opportunities for wildly exaggerated character presentations and the principal players contributed with a high level of ability and enthusiasm which ensured constant colour and humour. Michelle Ryan’s formidable duchess, Christopher Bowes game Sir John and Liam Quigley’s humorous study of the family solicitor, Parchester, were well to the fore with yet another polished performance from Sinead Magner as the man eating, gold-digging Jackqui (the couch scene as she tries to seduce Bill) and Gerald (Niall Treacy) as a young chinless toff straight out of the pages of P. G. Wodehouse. Sir Jasper, (Jake Ryan) had little to say but his actions spoke louder that words. Dylan Fitzelle was an indicator of the attention to detail in this production with his portrayal of a stoic butler, employing timing and the occasional telling flourish to make it a memorable contribution (he displayed similar attributes on All Ireland Final Day).
The chorus was also outstanding, choreographed into sparkling routines by Miriam Ball that exploited the giant stage to the full. The dinner table scene with the three of the principals being waited on by an army of waiters and waitresses was as visually pleasing and perfect as one is likely to get. Following on from its introduction last year John Murray conducted from the orchestra perch rather than the pit, giving direct cues to the cast in a conducting performance that maintained a sensitive balance between players and musicians throughout.
A superb set designed by art teacher Andrew Fox and constructed by woodwork teacher Brendan Ryan and the boys from TY2 gave you the feeling you were in a West End theatre. Elegant set backdrops, and lavish costumes all of which changed numerous times with quick efficiency, gave this show style and charm.
The show was two and a half hours of forgetting your real life and enjoying the traditional West End style grand musical. You would not walk out singing any of the songs but you would take the overall experience home and be glad you were a part of theatrical magic, if only for one night.