Let’s Put On A Show! 35 Years of Irish Rep Musicals – Comhghairdeachas! *

As well produced as anything on Broadway, Irish Repertory’s 35th Annual Gala reflected not only the theater’s history of recognizing and collaborating with extraordinary talent, but a feeling of family repeatedly expressed and filling the hall. The theater’s 200 productions, 800 readings and 30 Gala Concerts bring it to 2024 with bells on.

Charlotte Moore, Ciarán O’Reilly

Actors Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly met on a production of Hugh Leonard’s Summer at Hudson Guild Theater. Discovering unusual like mindedness, they decided, picturesquely chatting at a kitchen table, to found an Irish theater. He had arrived from Ireland so steeped in its dramatic traditions he’d performed in Gaelic. She started with broad appreciation that grew enthused with exposure. “We made it up as we went along.” (O’Reilly) My  2016 piece on the origins of Irish Rep.

This year’s Artistic Honoree, choreographer Barry McNabb, is affectionately introduced by actor Maryann Plunkett as a consummate connector and cherished collaborator since he choreographed Hal Prince’s production of Grandchild of Kings 33 years ago. “I look forward to as much as the legs will hold out,” the celebrant proclaims.

Maryann Plunkett and Barry McNabb; Tom Cashin

Tom Cashin, introduced by his partner of 50 years, Jay Johnson, receives the Irish Repertory Theatre’s Visionary Leadership Award in recognition of his stalwart service to our community and stewardship of the Rep as a member of its board of directors. The partners dance off stage!

A spirited overture arranged and lead by Musical Director Gary Adler opens the the entertainment portion of the evening. “Frank McCourt sat on our Board of Advisors for years and we never listened to one piece of advice…” O’Reilly begins. McCourt mentioned he had a play in a bottom drawer, but it wasn’t until the success of Angela’s Ashes that Moore and O’Reilly asked to disinter it. Now abashed, we’re told the play was 1997’s The Irish and How They Got That Way.

Original cast member Ciarán Sheehan performs its opening medley. The lyrical tenor enhances songs with authenticity. “Kathleen” (“I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”) rhymes with “been.” Town Hall collectively sighs.

Ciarán Sheehan; Shareen Ahmed

“We never stopped working during the Pandemic,” O”Reilly reminds us. Actors all over the country came together for a green-screen production of Meet Me in St. Louis (Hugh Martin/Ralph Blane). The video was innovative as well as entertaining. We watch Esther Smith (Shareen Ahmed) and John Truett (Max Von Essen) kiss onscreen from two different states. He even catches her when she faints at one point. Ahmed and the chorus offer a rich, robust “Trolley Song.”

Ben Davis; Jon Peterson

Ben Davis performs the title song of 2018’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as if convinced by lyrics. Unlike most theater actors, he reaches out, sharing with audience, not looking over heads. Jon Peterson, sings and taps his way through a medley from 2006’s George M. Cohan Tonight! (by Chip Deffa) in which he starred. Moore is convinced he’s a reincarnation. Revive this one! The performer is terrific; distinctive tight tapping and vocal alike.

Nicholas Barasch and Kerrry Conte

2022’s The Butcher Boy (Asher Muldoon Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe) “about a murderous small town boy whose best friend was The Virgin Mary,” is represented by Nicholas Barasch and Kerry Conte. “I want anything and everything that I have never known” the redhead sings. Lovely and sympathetic.

“Who hasn’t heard of The Quiet Man (Maurice Walsh), a story that symbolized Ireland?” Moore notes. In 2013, the theater produced Johnny Burke’s musicalization Donnybrook. Stepping in at the last moment, DeLaney Westfall sings from the piece with feisty sparks. “Couldn’t ya spare a kiss?” says he. “Out of my way,” says I… Danielle Ferland delivers “Old Friend” (Merrily We Roll Along) from 2017’s gala, Sondheim at Seven. She’s fully in character and easy to imagine in the role of Mary.

DeLaney Westfall; Danielle Ferland

Having the great Bill Irwin twice on stage at Irish Rep was a great privilege,” Moore comments. Irwin will once again grace the 22nd Street stage July 10 to August 4 with his brilliant On Beckett. Sporting vaudevillian attire, the clown/actor tells us, “The thing about soft shoe is that it occupies a different emotional space…Oh tell me what the stars do shine…” A little song, a little dance, a deft flip of cane and boater- embody unique grace and wit.

Bill Irwin

In 2010, Shubert Theater hosted Irish Rep’s gala production of Brigadoon (Frederick Loewe/Alan Jay Lerner). Ali Ewoldt’s “Waitin’ For My Dearie” with signature back of throat hum arrives lilting. Kerry Conte and the chorus complement. From 2021/2022The Streets of New York (Don Boucicault with adaptation, songs and direction by Charlotte Moore), we hear Emma Camp’s wickedly animated “Oh How I Love Being Rich!”: Oh how I love being rich/Entitlement is so much fun!

Ali Ewoldt; Emma Camp

Melissa Errico has starred in four versions of Finian’s Rainbow (Burton Lane/Yip Harburg) including 2016’s at Irish Rep. “This next song about bequeathing the optimism of life could so easily be about Charlotte and Ciarán,” she muses. “Look to the Rainbow” and “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” exude the actor’s innate warmth. Audience is encouraged to join the chorus. We sway.

Melissa Errico; Angela Grovey and Kyle Taylor Parker

Also from Finian’s Rainbow, Angela Grovey and Kyle Taylor Parker perform a vibrant, gospel tinted “Necessity.” Grovey’s smooth vocal goes out and returns like a boomerang, while Taylor Parker’s hovers. Two part scat is grand. 

“Maybe Woody Guthrie never claimed Irish heritage, but his work transcends all cultures,” introduces David Lutkin with a song from 2017’s Woody Sez that was written he tells us, 84 years ago a block from Town Hall. “All you can write is what you see,” he quotes Guthrie. “This Land is Your Land,” accompanied by the performer’s guitar and harmonica, resonates. Authenticity is unfussy. Lyrics appear on screen; audience sings the chorus.

David Ludkin

Ciarán Sheehan and Gary Troy dedicate “Wild Mountain Thyme” to the recently deceased Malachy McCourt. An image of McCourt’s children and grandchildren at his memorial fills the screen: And we’ll all go together/To pull wild mountain thyme/All around the blooming heather/Will you go, lassie, go? The flag is proffered.  It feels as if we’ve just been treated to a gourmet meal, though many will now retire to a dinner.

Ciarán Sheehan and Gary Troy

Vocals are so consistently splendid, I refrain from calling out every one. Screen clips are excellent

Photos by James Higgins

Be aware of this worthy theater! Attend, subscribe, perhaps help. I look forward to everything I see there. Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, a mutual admiration society, remain infectiously impassioned. The pair have created one of the city’s most vital and venerable theaters. We reap the benefits and will for years and years to come.

Ciarán O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore (back then) described as “fearless leaders” by Kathleen Begala, Chair of Irish Repertory Theatre

All proceeds support Irish Repertory Theatre and our mission to provide a context for understanding the contemporary Irish-American experience through evocative works of theater, music, and dance.

  • Comhghairdeachas!  (Congratulations!)

Let’s Put On A Show! 35 Years of Irish Rep Musicals
2024 Irish Repertory Theatre Gala
Directed and Arranged by Charlotte Moore
Full Orchestration & Music Direction– Gary Adler
Music Consultation- John Bell

At Irish Rep through June 30, a superb revival of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney.

The Town Hall June 3, 2024
Irish Repertory Theatre

About Alix Cohen (1775 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.