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Leading lights of amateur musicals take centre stage

HE has never been the leading man or stolen the limelight on stage but his lifetime contribution to his local musical society has been recognised with a top award.

Bill O'Dwyer won the 'Mary Kelly Unsung Hero' award at the Association of Irish Musical Societies (AIMS) HB awards at the weekend.

Mr O'Dwyer, who has been a member of Tipperary Musical Society for over 30 years, was one of six people nominated in the category.

Although his roles included the wizard in 'The Wizard of Oz' and Captain Andy in 'Show Boat', nowadays he's more usually found front of house.

"They used to ring up and say, 'Bill, this musical will really suit you. There are three non-singing parts,'" Mr O'Dwyer told the Irish Independent.

His father, Jack, was also a member of the society so he has grown up with the musicals. However, he said, unlike him, his father was blessed with a fabulous singing voice.

Tipperary Musical Society chairman Noel Greene nominated him for the award.

"Bill usually works front of house but he'll do any sort of job that needs to be done -- building sets, drumming up sponsorship, organising raffles," he said.

More than 80 people, representing Ireland's 139 amateur musical societies, attended this year's glitzy ceremony in Killarney's INEC.

The country's best musicals were St Mary's Musical Society in Navan, Co Meath, for its production of Howard Ashman's 'Little Shop of Horrors' and Tipperary Musical Society for its adaptation of Dale Wasserman's 'Man of La Mancha'.

The Co Meath group won 'Best Overall Show' in the Gilbert section while Tipperary took the gong in the Sullivan section.

Tipperary won all four award categories it was nominated in and also came home with 'Best Actors' in male and female categories for Cathal O'Donoghue and Deirdre Ryan.

A century after The Titanic sunk, the iconic passenger ship featured in shows north and south of the Border. Killarney Musical Society and Belfast Operatic Company both won awards for their productions of 'The Titanic'.

Irish Independent