Sunday 22 September 2019

Meet the Irish man who manages the multi-million dollar entertainment in Disney World's only Irish bar

Jason Kennedy

Being the brains behind the all singing, all dancing shows in Disney World Florida may be the dream for film fans around the world, but for one Wexford man, it's a reality.

Shane Ffrench (28) from Carrig On Bannow, has been working as Production Manager and Musical Director of Raglan Road, Disney World's only Irish bar, for close to two years now.

Raglan Road pub, located in Disney Springs - the world famous resort's adult-focused complex - hosts live Irish entertainment on two stages from 4.30pm to 1am every night of the week.

Shane, a long time musician and composer, was working on a production of Grease in Dublin's Gaeity Theatre when a co-worker at the time told him of an exciting new venture he thought Shane would excel at.

"About half way though Grease's run, [Musical Director] David Hayes said how great he thought I was and that he had a killer gig that he just had a meeting for," Shane told Independent.ie.

"The gig was being band leader on a new venture called The Raglan Roots Coalition, a new group of different types of musicians, which proved very successful."

Shane worked with the band as Musical Director and keyboard player for about a year, before returning to Ireland. It didn't take long before the pub's owner John Cooke was on the phone to Ffrench for a new job offer.

"John invited me to be part of a setting up an entire new show with more than 30 performers," he said.

"This was going to be mainly rehearsed and worked on in Ireland before we sent it on its way to Florida, so we did several months of research and auditioning, followed by a few weeks of rehearsals before we went to Orlando to start installing the show.

"Just before we went to install the show, I suggested to John that I wanted to continue my career in the States. Then he offered me a job as the show manager. So I took it and went with it."

The pub also gives talented Irish performers an opportunity to perform in America. Talent scouts look through video applications from entertainers, eager to perform in the famous pub, which has an almost 100 pc Irish cast.

"This is one of the biggest hurdles for the show to continue," Shane said.

"What we do is bring out dancers and musicians and we direct them into our acts to fit the show. We have to rehearse them and then get visas and put them on a plane before they get to play a note on stage."

Since moving, Shane and his wife Rachael, who works in Disney World as a resort photographer, have adapted to life in Flordia. The pair even got engaged close to the park's famous castle.

"Rachael is a Disney nut, so the day of our engagement was a great day out," Shane said.

"It was just the two of us and despite it being in a very public place, it was quite a private event. The reality is people are so busy having a good time they won’t get caught up in anything other people are doing unless they literally put on a show."

Despite calling Florida home for two years now, Shane, who also worked on The Voice of Ireland, says he and his wife are still learning new things about the Sunshine State.

"Florida is stunning and such an interesting place. There is so much to do and see.

"My favorite place the Kennedy Space Centre. I love to go and see the regular launches."

Although Shane says Ireland will always be home, he says there needs to be changes made to the arts sector here if it is to flourish.

"There is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t miss friends and family, however, Ireland has some concerning things happening with the arts at the moment.

"It's already an incredibly difficult business to successfully navigate, but now talks of orchestral meters is very worrying. I'm not an orchestral player, but something like that is going to affect every musician in Ireland negatively."

If you are a traditional Irish musician or dancer and over the age of 21, you can apply to be part of the show and work in Disney World by sending an audition video to casting@raglanroad.com.

Online Editors

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