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Thursday 17 October 2019

Hunt for a big fella with a big voice to play Michael Collins

LEADER: Michael Collins pictured a week before his death in 1922. Now he is to be played again on stage
LEADER: Michael Collins pictured a week before his death in 1922. Now he is to be played again on stage

Sarah Slater

A nationwide search for an actor to fill the massive role of revered Irish revolutionary and politician Michael Collins is to start in earnest this week.

Michael Collins - A Musical Drama was created by the late musical director and legend of Irish theatre Bryan Flynn, and is to be staged in November for the first time since his death in 2014.

The young Waterford man, who tragically succumbed to cancer at the age of 43, was a music graduate of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and packed a lot into his short life, directing and designing more than 80 productions.

The musical drama was one of the many highlights of his career. Gerry Barnes, former artistic director of the Cork Opera House, commissioned Bryan to create the musical drama.

The new staging of the musical drama was awarded to the Coolmine Musical Society following stiff competition from other drama groups and will be staged at the Draiocht theatre in Blanchardstown.

The society was awarded the musical by administrators for the rights of Michael Collins - A Musical Drama, which was set up following Bryan's death.

He included strict instructions on how any future production should be created and directed.

Director Pat McElwain said: "Bryan was very protective of his work and rightly so. His wishes on the lead character of Michael Collins are specific and we are endeavouring as best we can to follow them.

"This is why we are putting out a nationwide call-out to actors to contact us if they are interested in the role. Auditions will start at the end of this month, so time is of the essence.

"Michael is a challenging role which requires a big tenor voice and a broad acting range.

"The rights-holders also insist that the performer playing Collins has a 'playing age' of 26 to 31 years, and that he is at least 5ft 11in tall."

Mr McElwain added: "The actor has to have a real physical presence on stage and have a whopper of a voice."

The musical drama is set against the backdrop of the War of Independence, the Treaty negotiations with Britain and the resulting Civil War.

The love story centres around Collins's fiancee Kitty Kiernan. She first met Collins in 1918 when he stayed at the family hotel with his friend, Irish republican politician Harry Boland. She became the love interest of both men.

Collins proposed to Kitty on October 8, 1921, in the Grand Hotel in Greystones, Co Wicklow. When Collins announced his engagement in the Dail, Boland magnanimously sent a letter to Kitty congratulating her on the news.

The original role of Michael Collins was played by Meath actor Killian Donnelly, who is currently playing the part of Jean Valjean in the West End production of the smash hit Les Miserables.

Those interested in auditioning for the part can contact before next Sunday, May 27.

Sunday Independent

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