WHEN 'Snow White and The Seven Cromane' took to the Killorglin CYMS stage stage in 1958, few would have envisioned that 50 productions later Killorglin Pantomime Group would be one of Ireland's longest running local pantos.
This year's landmark show is 'Mother Goose' and director/writer Declan Mangan has promised belly aches and side splits aplenty, as well as the largest chorus ever assembled for the Killorglin shows. And Declan should know, after all he was one of the chosen few who took to the stage for that inaugural performance.
"The 'CY' opened in 1954/55 and the committee decided to put on a panto to help pay for the roof," he recalls. "There was a new curate in town, Fr O'Riordan, and he got a script from Coachford titled 'Snow White and the Seven Corkmen' and he changed the title to Cromane. When it was cast they had no one for the part of the witch but, luckily my father John remembered my dramatic performances as a fouryear-old on top of the kitchen table and asked me to do it - it's been all downhill since!"
Over half a century of dames later, Declan knows exactly what it takes to host a successful panto and he says the camaraderie between crew members is major ingredient.
"I think the reason Killorglin has lasted so long is that the cast and chorus have so much fun at rehearsals. If we weren't enjoying ourselves there's no way the thing would have survived 10 years never mind 50," he states.
"When the crowd on stage is having fun, it's infectious. The more response you get from the audience the better the actors and the chorus gets, it's nearly like a love-fest!"
This year's shows begins on Sunday, January 20, and a special anniversary performance will also be held in Killarney on February 10.
"I'm looking forward to performing at the INEC," Declan stated.
"It will be a challenge as obviously the stage is huge compared to Killorglin but a challenge has never put us off yet. Mick Jones is a superb musical director and the choruses are in fantastic shape, so we're all set. It's a rattling story and great scenes and with 23 ladies and 10 men in the chorus it's a good job we're going to the INEC."
Meanwhile, Declan has put pen to paper to write 'Dame Declan's Diary' which went to print on Friday and will be launched on Tuesday, January 22, in Sean Scoil, Killorglin, at 6pm.
"They're wonderful memories of wonderful pantos and I hope people enjoy the trip down memory lane," he adds.