Last night I had the opportunity to attend the opening night of the Irish based comedy THE NIGHT JOE DOLAN’S CAR BROKE DOWN, by renowned theatre company The Toronto Irish Players.
The live performance took place at the beautiful, comfortable Alumnae Theatre, 70 Berkeley Street, Toronto.
As it was opening night, a lot of pressure is put on the cast and crew to deliver an outstanding performance; something that sets the bar and gets the media talking. As I moved through the waves of theatre-goers in the entrance hall, you could feel a warm energy travelling through the crowd; one of excitement and appreciation.
The crew prepared the many people for a wonderful night, as they mingled with the public and spared the time to, as we say in Ireland, have a bit ‘a’ craic. Since moving to Toronto, I have genuinely not met many Irish people, so to attend a show that allowed all of us to come together and reconnect in many ways, is something to be enjoyed & be proud of.
But what about the show? What was it about? Did it live up to expectations? And would I recommend it to all my followers?
For those unfamiliar with the Irish legend that is Joe Dolan, he was a singer who dominated the music charts from the 1960’s to 1990’s with his array of catchy show-tunes, and was the Number One entertainer in the era of popular show-bands. Not only was he the only Irish singer to have consecutive number 1’s in every decade of his music career, but he had hoards of female fans following his across the country; thanks to his wit, charm and killer moves. Despite passing away in 2007, Joe Dolan still holds a place in people’s hearts and his songs never fail to get everyone up and swaying their hips, as if they were him.
And this is where our story opens. THE NIGHT JOE DOLAN’S CAR BROKE DOWN opens in the Glenaduff Inn, County Cavan, in Ireland. It’s St. Stephen’s Night and ten people sit within its four walls, having the craic and knocking back drink after drink. Not only is it the festive season but everyone has gathered for the surprise birthday of a man known as The Horse Munley (Ian McGarrett). A group of young ones, headed by thoughtful and cheerful Jane (Sinead Ni Bhraoin) are ready to celebrate the 60th Birthday, and use any excuse to order up another round of shots. Accompanying Jane are Sheila (Mairead Clancy); the wise-cracker of the bunch, John (Ryan Francis); the party lad just looking for a good time, Mary (Rebecca De LaCour); a loveable character with a fiery side, and Paul (Sean Gilheany);…we all have a friend like Paul…the quiet one who turns casanova, after a few drinks.
Providing the music on this cold night is resident musician Steve (Bill Poulin) and keeping alcohol flowing is barman Barney (Stephen Flett). The only other people in the pub are husband and wife duo PJ & Angela (played by Jamie Johnson & Kelly Marie Murtha).
As the “liquid courage” keeps coming, the pub-goers start to get a little brave, resulting in hilarious showdowns and cracking one-liners; delivered by the entire cast. Non-drinker housewife Angela decides that trying a few shots wouldn’t do any harm, despite the warning looks from her over-bearing, outspoken husband. Meanwhile, a secret is being kept locked up by Jane, which she eventually reveals; turning the night upside down.
But just when you think the night could not get more dramatic, an increasingly drunk Angela reveals a scandalous secret that not only shakes the pub, but brings with it a feisty love triangle, that will have you crying with laughter.
As family affairs and love lives are thrown about for all to see, our party goers depart ways…but what happens next turns the whole thing up a notch. A knock comes to the door, and who is it, but none other than Joe Dolan (played by Hugo Straney). After the initial shock wears off, the Horse Munley and barman Barney are treated to their own private show with Joe Dolan. As he belts out all his classic songs, the night starts to sail smoothly, and you cannot help but sing along with the songs we have all come to know.
I am not one for spoiling the surprise, but as the night comes to a close and the sun rises, news arrives to the pub, that the audience will not see coming… a clever and memorable twist to a fantastic show.
So what did I think of it? Do you need to ask? It was phenomenal, and exactly what Toronto needs right now. It is the perfect addition to the theatre scene and even though this production is the Canadian debut of the popular play, you will be blown away by how effortlessly the storyline comes to life; thanks to these talented actors and stage professionals.
Every actor was perfect in their role, and I could not fault them in any way, as they delivered high-quality, memorable and touching scenes, mixed with comedic magic. However, the characters that I immediately fell in love with, were ‘say it as ya see it’ Sheila (Mairead Clancy) and the hilarious, crowd-pleaser, which was Mary (Rebecca De La Cour). Also Stephen Flett in his role as Barney will have you laughing from beginning to end, making you wish you had barmen like him in your home town.
But an extra round of applause must be, without a doubt, given to the sensational Hugo Straney (Joe Dolan). With his wonderful vocal ability and fantastic range, he hit every note in a way that would make the late singer’s fans think he was right in the room with them all. Add all of this to the singer’s signature white suit, cheeky wink and the well-known snake-hips, he had the whole crowd wooing and wolf-whistling throughout…proving that this actor and performer is no “average Joe.”
Lastly, I must acknowledge how wonderfully creative the set design of the Glenaduff Inn was on stage, which was all down to set designer James O’Meara. He put together such a realistic stage that at one point I felt like jumping up onto the set with them, and ordering my favorite drink.
If you wish to laugh your way into next week and go to a feel good show; laced with typical Irish humour, gags and classic phrases, then this is the show for you. The Irish are known around the world to be a very welcoming nation, up for a laugh and always a joke to tell. And this theatre group and production are the perfect example of this.
Last night was an absolute SELL OUT, so I’d encourage you all to GET YOUR TICKETS NOW before it’s too late. With many other days already selling out, you should get your tickets reserved before the show ends.
THE NIGHT JOE DOLAN’S CAR BROKE DOWN plays at the Alumnae Theatre from February 16th until March 4th 2017.
Tickets can be reserved online by clicking http://torontoirishplayers.com/wp/.
Great Show…Great Night…Great People.
5 STAR RATING