Monday, February 27, 2023

Pat McEvoy and Dymphna Nugent, hosts of the Waterford News & Star Green Room Awards. Photo: Joe Evans


Waterford News & Star Green Room Awards 2023


NIGHTS like this are like the old finals of Tops. This was more buzzzzzzzzz than buzz, more glammmm than glamorous, more turbo-chaaarged than a nuclear power station. The entire arts community in Waterford sitting down in one of the oldest theatres in Ireland to acknowledge the quality and diversity of artistic achievement in the Déise for the last year.

And the noise was deafening. I haven’t heard such noise in the theatre since results nights in the Sixties Tops.

The Waterford News & Star Green Room Awards had finally hit the stage after our Covid period-in-the-desert and the anticipation was electric. The nominations were published three weeks ago and the debate began, who’s in and who’s out, what’s nominated and what’s not, who will be the biggest winners? Nominees were thrilled. After all, we have awards for every sphere of life in Waterford – and rightly so. But these were OUR awards. The arts community awards that acknowledge excellence in every type of performance and artistic achievement.

Sometimes it’s huge and awards come in multiples like Stagemad’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Japanese Gardens in Tramore or Waterford Musical Society’s wonderful production of “My Fair Lady” or Red n’ Blue Theatre Company’s marvellous drama “Flags”. And sometimes it’s the small and individual that grabs the gong, like brilliant young violinist Nataliya O’Neill, who is the first ever musician to win the Best Youth Performance Award. And I must also mention Waterford actress and now playwright Katie Honan’s first ever play, “How to fall flat on your face” that brought her both the Best New Play and Best Actress awards.

Jack Cunningham Productions scooped awards – Best Choreographer, Best Female Performance for Karen Steenson and Best Supporting Actress for Samantha O’Regan, who both appeared in Jack’s “Steel Magnolias”.

Whatever way the awards come, they’re greeted with screams of delight. As are the nominations. Musical Director for the night, Wayne Brown had underscoring for the announcement of the nominations that would have spooked century-old ghosts and fanfares for the winners that would have kept Dáil candidates on edge for weeks.

My co-host for the evening, Dymphna Nugent, is witty, informative and keeps the show on the road. Our production team gave us a top-drawer concert that was full of variety and quality, and representative of all the work I’ve reviewed over the last year: musical theatre, classical music, professional and amateur drama, history talks and art exhibitions, ballet and my personal favourite – Opera. Jack Cunningham Productions opened the show with “Anything Goes”, Ray Collins who sang the Anthem from Chess, the SETU Quartet with the Una Cabeza tango, 12-year-old Caoimhe Scanlon with “Don’t Rain on my Parade” from Funny Girl. Waterford Musical Society performed an excerpt from My Fair Lady, Jonathan Kelly and Lynsey Penkert performed the West Side Story duet, soprano Vanessa Whelan sang “Wishing You Somewhere Here Again” from Phantom, and the David Hennessy Stage School closed the show with a Matilda highlights.

The announcements bounced between myself and Dymphna and injected that frisson of tension that was just right. Winners were quickly brought to the stage from all over the house by the hard-working Theatre Royal front of house staff, where the Awards were presented by Mayor of Waterford John O’Leary, Metropolitan Mayor Jason Murphy, sponsors Regina Mangan and Maria Clifford, from Liberty Blue Estate Agents, WLR FM’s Geoff Harris, Creative Spirit Ambassador of the Cultural Quarter, Sarah Jane Cleary, and Waterford News & Star Editor, Mary Frances Ryan.

There was a gin bar in the Foyer dispensing free Thin Gin – courtesy of Nicola Beresford and Timmy Ryan – and jazz combo Fallaway House to welcome the public before hand and send happy out patrons into the theatre. An imaginative Spraoi installation and an exhibition of the old Tops of the Town and show photos, courtesy of News & Star photographer Joe Evans, also took pride of place.

During the Awards Finale, the People’s Choice Award went to Mount Sion Choir – after stiff competition during which over 1,600 members of the public voted for their favourite from a shortlist of 10. The Bursary Award of €1,000 went to playwright Hannah Carberry and the Outstanding Artistic/Theatrical Event of the Year went to Stagemad for their outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens in Tramore.

The biggest reception of the night was reserved for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Betty Bible Mulcahy was really Waterford’s first ever choreographer and constantly broke new ground with her vision for the place of dance in musical theatre and Irish dancing. A four-times All-Ireland Tops winner, founder of Waterford’s first dance school for ballroom dancing, teacher of multiple Irish dancing champions and choreographer of the first ever dance troupe outside of the Billy Barry’s to appear on the Late Late Toy Show, who tapped their troubles away for Gaybo.

The screen rolled footage of Waterford’s Betty Bible Mulcahy in recognition of Betty’s contribution to Waterford theatre and dance. Long before the film finished, the audience were on their feet to pay tribute to a legend of dance and theatre and the ovation was long and sustained.

A great finale to a great night.

Betty Bible Mulcahy, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Waterford News & Star Green Room Awards. Photo: Joe Evans

By Pat McEvoy
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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