Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Jack Cunningham Productions Online: Broadway Bites Back

IT’S good to get reminders of just how strong musical talent still is in Waterford. And young Jack Cunningham, current Green Room Award Winner as choreographer for Chicago, is currently studying professional dance at the College of Dance in Dublin and is also dance teacher/ choreographer at Soul Dance Arts – Waterford’s newest stage school specialising in the three main areas of performance: singing, dancing and acting! And this busy stage bee is also buzzing as Artistic Director at Jack Cunningham Productions that would normally be staging three or four major productions each year.

We’re online now and his Saturday night ‘Broadway Bites Back’ showcase on YouTube and Facebook is professional, snappy-happy and has something for everyone in the big audience that has tuned in for free. Jack has also made a superb online programme with colourful graphics and interesting cast bios for anyone who’s tuning in. And he’s also added the ingredients for a half-a-dozen cocktails – only one I’ve actually heard of btw – to keep the atmosphere going. Now there’s a first!

‘Jack Cunningham’s Broadway Bites Back is a reminder of just what we’re missing but also what’s waiting for us post lockdown’

I’m delighted with the mix on offer – up-tempo big-belt soprano numbers from current Disney classics, traditional classics from mega-hit shows such as Carousel, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and a couple of bish-bash medley overtures before each act to set us in the mood. Each item carries the title of the show, the number and the name of the singer. The time will come when all of this information will be available to audience members sitting in the auditorium.

Every singer sings from their own space and the concert is a collage of big-hits from all over the county. I have seen these performers as leads in many shows and are former AIMS and Green Room Award winners. It goes without saying that the performances are a delight and the enthusiasm of the singers is quirky, characterful and infectious.

Jessica Reinl wanders into the unknown from Frozen 2, Chloe McGrath’s on the track of the Greatest Showman and Emma Murphy is Moana. Tobie Hickey wanders down The Street Where you Live, Carrie Mullane is a soulful Waitress, Trish Orpen gives us our money’s worth in the big-belt Hey Big Spender.

Bill Stafford searches for normal as The Ogre in Shrek and good luck with that, Kayleigh Quinlan is a Phantom’s delight and I just loved Jack McGrath’s real yadadadeda belter from Hamilton. Susan Boyce is tender and sympathetic as she searches for Someone Like You in Jekyll & Hyde, while Jamie Murphy, mesmerising us with hypnotic eyes, finds lots of humour in I Believe from the Book of Morman.

Aisling Giles also finds lots to laugh about as a Fabulous Baby in Sister Act and Niamh Fennessy convinces in Tell me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers. Jenny White is at her anti-romantic, feisty feminist best with So… Who Needs Roses? from Billy McCarthy’s favourite show Mack and Mabel. Brian Flynn is movingly All Alone in the Universe from Seussical; Avril Hartery is duey-eyed in When I Married Mr. Snow from Carousel; Rhea Kennedy gives a soulful and bluesy cover of Elvis’s There’s Always You and Anne Marie Collins gives us something to smile just About a Quarter to Nine.

Tom Rogers is all-dramatic in Les Mis’s Stars, Emma Walsh finds courtship impossible to deny in ‘I Can’t Say No’ from Okla and Dermot Keyes gives the Anthem from Chess the full money’s worth. Lynsey Penkert fills us with optimism for the future in Climb Every Mountain and Holly Ryan reminded us of just how much we miss her with a belt-soprano Don’t Rain on my Parade to die for – I’m sure I’m still hearing that final top note that climbs through the octaves and seems to last forever.

Jack Cunningham’s Broadway Bites Back is a reminder of just what we’re missing but also what’s waiting for us post lockdown. I forgot my troubles and just sat back and enjoyed 90 minutes of Déise talent. Roll on the autumn.

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By Pat McEvoy, Arts Correspondent
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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