Clonmel panto 'Babes in the Wood' a huge triumph for all involved

Michael Heverin


Michael Heverin

Clonmel panto 'Babes in the Wood' a huge triumph for all involved

Tara Gearon as 'Snow White' and Emmet Donlon as 'Horace' in 'Babes in the Wood'.

“There’s no business like show business” sing the young chorus at the very start of the St, Mary’s Choral Society panto “Babes in the Wood” and they live up to that claim for the next two and a half hours.

From tiny tots to teenagers, the boys and girls put on a show full of music, song, dance, laughter and much merriment that is delighting audiences in Clonmel’s White Memorial Theatre each night this week.

With three different chorus groups involved, over one hundred young stars are taking to the stage to showcase the remarkable musical talent that the Clonmel musical society is nurturing.

If only a small percentage of those taking part this week continue to be part of musical entertainment in the town into the future, then shows like this will prove to be a wonderful academy for aspiring talent.

They sing and dance their way into the hearts of the audience - on opening night it was a truly heart-warming experience for all those there on one of rawest nights of the year outside.

But inside it was all fun and laughter - the young stars rubbing shoulders with the ‘veterans’ of musical theatre in the town. To borrow a sporting analogy, it was a perfect mix of youth and experience.

And of course the script gave ample room for innovation and improvisation - the goodies and baddies who frequented the dark woods were drawn from such popular fairytales as Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.

She's behind you! Horace (Emmet Donlon) holds off his mother (George Barry) as she sneaks up on Snow White (Tara Gearon).

The show provided wonderful principal roles for some new and not so new members of the society.

In her fourth show with the society, Tara Gearon was wonderful in the lead role of Snow White and looks destined for a great career on stage.

Katy Judge moved from the children’s chorus for the last three pantomimes to the role of Gretel where she looked born to the stage while her stage brother Jack O’Meara as Hansel made his debut in last year’s panto.

Tirna Brown was making her society debut but is a veteran of school productions as her charming portrayal of Rapunzel demonstrated, while Nicole Butler’s experiences in youth theatre were evident in her role as the Wicked Witch.

Emmet Donlan as the male lead Horace is a true veteran of the Clonmel stage since his St Mary’s debut in 2001 and gave another flawless performance, a highlight being his romantic duet with Tara Gearon’s Snow White.

What’s a panto without side-splitting comedy!  And St. Mary’s Choral Society are veritable trailblazers in this. Diarmuid Vaughan and Kevin Fahey have set the tone for their antics with recent portrayals as the Ugly Sisters but in ‘Babes’  they have stepped up another gear with hilarious results - Kevin as the Queen, who resents Snow White’s beauty and wants her out of the way, and Diarmuid as her assistant Cedric, something of a queen himself!

The humour never flags - indeed it intensifies as the night goes on - with the two wonderful comics milking every last laugh.

Their duet ‘Raining Men’ doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house - literally!

Comedy co-conspirators include Clonmel’s panto dame par excellence George Barry as the Widow Gilhoolie - there are very few politicians or other high flyers safe from George’s quips and barbs; his ‘pretty’ little daughter Heidi played by Jason Ryan who would test any mother’s patience; and Little Red Riding Hood herself, played by Alan McCormack, who brought the panto into the 21st century by being surgically attached to her smart phone.

Little Red Riding Hood (Alan McCormack) beats a hasty retreat from the Big Bad Wolf (Kevin Twohig).

In his first production with the society, Kevin Twohig is both funny and menacing as the Big Bad Wolf, while one of his intended targets, Gillian Crowe Byrne as Little Red’s Granny, makes a very welcome return to the stage and was superb in leading the other ‘OAPs’ in the ‘All About the Bass’ scene.

Having missed out on Snow White’s affections, Nigel Byrne as Prince Charming hooks up with Little Red’s Mother Grainne Vaughan in two great performances, while front of house virtuoso James Butler is the voice of the Queen’s Magic Mirror.

And explaining the intricacies and inter-weaving of the various storylines to the audience are the Brothers Grimm, James Sweeney and James O’Donovan.

Or course no Clonmel panto would be complete without an appearance from the doyen of local musical theatre, Timmy O’Dwyer, even if it isn't with his signature tune ‘Delilah’.

The production team is Kevin Fahey, Gillian Hewitt Fitzgerald, Emmet Donlon, Diarmuid Vaughan, Mary Donlon and George Barry who do a great job in bringing this show to the stage.

Their triumph is bringing so many talented young performers to tread the boards for the first time. In doing so they are ensuring a bright future for live musical theatre in Clonmel.