Having appeared with Clonmel’s St. Mary’s Choral Society in 2011 in Oliver, I was really looking forward to seeing what the society would do with this Gothic musical - and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. There were a number of wow! moments, some wonderful performances and some fantastic solo and choral singing, all topped off with a dramatically gripping and tragic end.
This is a hard musical for any society to stage and needs a firm hand in its direction. We got that here. Michael O’Donoghue knew the show and brought his own ideas to bear on the story. I liked the way he put his own stamp on proceedings and there was some inspired direction of principals and chorus.
He was helped here by a man of many talents, Diarmuid Vaughan who not only played Jekyll and Hyde but built and designed the set. In fact the reveal of Jekyll’s laboratory was brilliantly done, a massive wow moment that deserved applause, as it came out of a brick wall that opened outingeniously. The projections on the back wall were excellent. I loved the 3D Victorian street and the library, simple projections but ones that transported us to where we were in the story.
The stage management was excellent, the pace of the show for me never slackened. Lighting was very well plotted, especially in the transformation and chorus scenes, and helped in creating the Gothic atmosphere this director wanted.
I have to say that there was wonderful work in the chorus, particularly in Facade and Murder Murder - take a bow chorus mistress, also to those members who had solo lines (well done especially to young Mimi Lane who has a very bright future ahead of her).
And while I thought that some members of the chorus were much better actors than others and at times this inexperience showed, everyone gave 100 per cent.
David Hughes as Jekyll’s friend Utterson did well. He looked the part and his fine speaking voice was ideal. The young actress playing Nellie (Kiya Donlan) gave us a cheeky, spirited portrayal and I really enjoyed her performance.
The board of governors all were well cast. They looked great but one or two needed to be careful of overplaying their dialogue - maybe they were enjoying themselves too much.
I thought Cian Corcoran was superb as the sinister Spider. He never lost character, didn’t overplay and looked fantastic – I loved the way he was an everyman figure and liable to pop up anywhere.
Derek Ryan, the actor playing Sir Danvers was as ever absolutely brilliant in his singing – one of the best male base baritone voices I’ve ever heard in AIMSland, in fact anywhere. He really stood out in the quartet.
The only things I didn’t like were the style of the voiceover at the start and the action starting on stage as the audience were coming in- I thought it started way too early .
Now our three lead performers- Holly Williamson played Lucy Harris, the tart with a heart that meets Hyde. She did really well in what is a difficult role. I thought she looked the part and gave her all, in fact she got stronger as the show went on and was really convincing in her scenes with Hyde. However the actress playing Emma Carew (Andrea Ruth-Houlihan) gave the best performance of anyone I’ve ever seen playing this part. My pals and I from Tralee absolutely loved her- her singing was stunning and she was fantastic in her acting in the gripping finale. She played a massive part in the success of the final scene and indeed of the show.
But Jekyll and Hyde does get remembered for the quality of its lead role and how well the two charcters are presented. In Diarmuid Vaughan the part was in safe hands, and over the last number of years he’s proved he’s one of the best, if not the best actor in musical society land, as his many national achievenments testify.
He chose to underplay Jekyll completely and this meant when the transformation to Hyde happened we the audience were shocked at what we were seeing – it was stunning to watch as he contorted and threw his body around the stage.
We got a great, great acting performance, as is always the case with this performer.
Thanks Clonmel for a memorable Jekyll and Hyde. I look forward to your next offering.
- Tim Landers