Saturday 24 February 2018

Who needs All That Jazz when you have Angela's Ashes: The Musical?

A still from 'Angela's Ashes'
A still from 'Angela's Ashes'
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

It’s hard to imagine the elevator pitch for Angela’s Ashes: The Musical.

Abject poverty, rain, alcoholism, masturbation, rain, abuse, death, more rain and… jazz hands?

Most people probably did a double take when they heard Frank McCourt’s bestselling memoir was going to get the razzmatazz treatment.

But producer Pat Moylan says the show is more Blood Brothers than High Society.

“The problem is everyone thinks of the 1999 movie and that was good but rather grim and bleak. There was so much humour in Frank’s book and I wanted to capture that,” she says.

Plus, she points out — not all musicals are gayness and light.

Angela's Ashes cover
Angela's Ashes cover

Cabaret was set during the fall of the Weimar Republic, Spring Awakening features suicide and abuse, and, of course then there is Les Mis.

“I prefer to think of this show as a coming-of-age play with great music rather than a typical musical,” Pat says. “There are lots of Irish rites of passages in it – like your First Communion and taking part in Irish Dancing classes.”

Moylan, whose previous credits include Stones in His Pockets and I, Keano, has been working on the show for three-and-a-half years alongside composer and lyricist Adam Howell and Paul Hurt.

Given that McCourt’s book has sold 10 million copies, a West End transfer seems inevitable.

“Right now we are just focusing on the Irish tour,” Pat says. “All my energy is on that”.

To give theatre-goers a sense of what was in store, a selection of songs were performed aboard the MV Cill Airne on the Liffey last week, including the title track ‘Angela’s Ashes’.

Unfortunately, the show’s writers decided against singing another of the production’s signature tunes - ‘The Masturbation Song’.

 “You can wait till the première this summer to hear that,” the PR said. “Just like everyone else.”

Angela’s Ashes: The Musical will play Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from July 18th-30th and will also have dates at Limerick’s Lime Tree Theatre (July 6th-15th) and the Grand Opera House Belfast (August 1st-5th)

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