Staging panto is a big task
It's panto time again as Dundalk Musical Society take to the stage of An Tain Arts Centre for a sold out run of 'Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs'.
But producing a show which is sold out for weeks in advance, even after an extra date is added, doesn't happen by magic, with a lot of hard work and dedication, not forgetting fundraising, happening behind the scenes.
Director Geraldine Pender explains that preparation for the panto begins back in September when the auditions for the cast of over a hundred adults and children are held.
Then, once the Society's annual musical is out of the way, rehearsals for the panto get under way.
'They go straight from one show to another,' says an impressed Geraldine, who is now in her sixth season directing Dundalk's annual panto.
'We rehearse every Sunday from mid October to the start of January.'
Once the script has been chosen, Geraldine sits down with choreographer Yasmina Aniss to select the songs for the show.
'We try to do a selection of songs that are well known as well as ones that are in the charts at the moment.'
Sunday's are a busy day for cast, with rehearsals for the different age groups, from the tots to the adult character roles, taking place throughout the day from 12noon to 5.30pm in St Nicholas' Hall, Philip Street.
'Everyone has a time slot for rehearsals and we have to keep to a schedule so that we can get through all the different groups,' explains Geraldine.
This year's cast features Shannon Mc Dermott in the title role of Snow White and Clodagh Gray as
Prince Valiant. Nickey McCourt returns as the panto dame Nurse Pololy, while the role of the jealous stepmother, Queen Sovain is played by Karyn Mc Cooey, while Stephanie Rocks is the mirror, tasked with revealing who is the fairest of them all. The Seven Dwarfs see Oisin Weldon as Doc, Alan McIntyre as Happy, Ruairi Reynolds as Grumpy, Ciara Lavery as Sleepy, Cian Kenney as Bashful, Tiernan O'Brien as Dopey and James Moran as Sneezy. Expect lots of laughs from the comic pairing of Patrick Brown as Numbskull and Conor Mc Mahon as Dougal.
'Staging a panto or show is a big undertaking,' confirms Phyllis Woods, secretary. 'It costs €25,000 to €30,000 to stage a panto and €35,000 to €40,000 for a show.'
'People think that because we have a sell-out show we must make money, but that's not the case and we don't even break even so we have to do constant fundraising throughout the year,' she explains.
'We are lucky that the Cuchulainn Credit Union have come on board as our main sponsors and a lot of the councillors will give us a contribution but we still have to cover the cost of the venue, of the musicians, the director, choreographer, the sets and lighting, as well as costume hire, music rights, etc.'
Costumes and backdrops are hired from the UK and Dublin, with the stage crew led by Niall McCooey working their magic to create the fairytale world where the action takes place.
Geraldine says that Dundalk Musical Society is lucky to get the support of local audiences.
'It takes a lot of money to put on a show and a lot of societies in Ireland end up going into debt so Dundalk Musical Society seems to have a great committee and also gets a lot of support from the town. Without the people of the town supporting them, it would be difficult to put on a production like this.'