Wexford People

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Two decades of theatrE magic with oyster lane

OVER the past 20 years, many thousands of people have travelled a theatrical journey that was borne out of a post-pantomime party in a Wexford pub.

The magic of the theatre and musicals, new and old, has been brought to life by Oyster Lane Theatre Group, with its blend of exuberant youth and seasoned experience resulting in shows that would not have been out of place in the West End.

When the curtain came up at the Dun Mhuire, there was always that sense that you were about to see something special and that hasn't changed.

Some of those who cut their theatrical teeth with Oyster Lane have since moved on to a national and international stage, Michael Londra, Sharon Clancy and Love/Hate's Charlie Murphy among them.

The origins of Oyster Lane date back to late 1993, when following the post-pantomime party at Michael Kelly's (now Kelly's on the Corner), Director Alan Corcoran recognised an air of sadness amongst the revellers after the highs of the shows and decided to do something about it.

Despite all being exhausted after eight performances, and months of rehearsal, they were left with the sad reality that many of the group would not set foot on stage again until the following year.

In an inspired moment, Alan suggested that Wexford needed a new musical theatre group to cater for the vast array of talents in our locality.

Soon afterwards in January, 1993, Oyster Lane Theatre Group was formed after a group of volunteers came forward to form a committee and began the process of turning the dream into a reality.

The Wexford Opera Festival was identified as a time when there was a great buzz in Wexford, but with a gap in the festivities for the local people, a family market that was not catered for with the singing pubs and lunchtime recitals.

It was decided to put on shows that would not only cater for the entire family, but would include, and nurture, the talent of Wexford's youth.

Wexford has always been known as a musical town, not least because of the Opera Festival. But the town's musical culture is far deeper, with devotes to all genres - classical, traditional, folk and rock music.

And for those interested in dancing, set design, drama or broadcasting - their untapped talent was about to be unleashed on Wexford!

Oyster Lane set about harnessing not only this talent, but recognised that to achieve its vision, meant successfully blending emerging talent with more mature, experienced veterans with a wealth of skills drawn from Wexford Pantomime Society and Wexford Drama Group to name but two.

The 'ethos' of Oyster Lane Theatre Group was born with the new group embarking Grease offering the perfect foil for its talents.

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With a lot of hard work, excellent PR and a few master strokes.. such as Boyzone coming to the gala night, Grease sold out, not just for the originally planned six night, but a seventh night just two hours after being announced on 2FM.

The intervening years have seen the Group build on Grease's initial success, staging ambitious shows such as Jesus Christ Superstar, the Irish premiere of All 4 One, which brought praise from the composers and awards from the Association of Irish Musical Societies, family favourites such as Oliver!, Disney's Beauty and the Beast and My Fair Lady.

Alan Corcoran listed his top three shows over the past two decades as Some Like it Hot, Jesus Christ Superstar and Annie, the latter because 'it's great to see how much our young talent has come on'.

'Our ethos has always been mixing youth with experience,' said Alan.

He said the group was an integral part of the town and had put much needed live shows into the Dun Mhuire Theatre.

Performing with OLTG has inspired members to study theatre and the arts, work in the media as well giving confidence and ambition to perform with other local, national and international groups.

Past members include IFTA winning actress Charlie Murphy, now one of the starts of Love/Hate, All Ireland Talent Show winner Daniel Furlong, Celtic Thunder and Riverdance star Michael Londra and West End performers Sharon Clancy and Alison Doyle. During the past two decades, the the Group has created many long term friendships, some wedding bells and has become a key part of the entertainment scene in Wexford town and beyond.

Wexford People