'The Irish...and How They Got That Way': A Rollicking Good Time

If you want to relive the pleasures of this past St. Patrick's Day, then rush right out to Ivoryton Playhouse for its production of The Irish...and How They Got That Way. But hurry-it's only running through Sunday, April 3!

This is a music-filled couple of hours that encompasses several decades of Irish civilization through songs, dances, and commentary by four talented performers and a three-piece band directed by John Sebastian DeNicola that includes Melanie Guerin and DeNicola (piano), Celeste Cumming (cello/violin), and Doug Guidone (guitar, banjo, and mandolin). The play, directed by Jacqueline Hubbard and written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, is set on a raised stage with an array of boxes and chairs along with a waiting accordion and other implements, giving the look of a traditional Irish pub. The accordion -true to the Chekhovian principle -eventually gets played by Morgan Crowley, who is the chief commentator of the group. That group (Crowley, Annie Kerins, Michael McDermott, and Kathleen Mulready) performs as a unit with songs, dances, and commentary throughout.

The play is divided into two acts, the first dealing mostly with life in Ireland and the second with life in America. Act one features traditional songs like "The Rose of Tralee" and "Those Endearing Young Charms," as well as a touch of music and song about working life in America, "No Irish Need Apply" and "Erie Canal."

Obviously the first act is very sentimental, but still has a hard aspect to it as it illustrates Irish life in the 19th century, especially during the famine years. One thing it makes clear is the responsibility of the British for much of the hunger and eventual emigrations. Some very interesting statistics are given here.

The second act opens with a vaudeville medley and then goes into some popular and folk material, including "Grand Old Flag," "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly, " "Finnegan's Wake," and "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" These are only examples of the breadth of the material you'll be treated to in this show.

The group also points out many of the achievements of the Irish, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States, particularly in politics and the American labor movement.

While some of the material is pedantic, it's presented in such a way that you find yourself often applauding not only the variety of information, but also the talented performers presenting it and the songs and dances that accompany it.

There's no question that you'll enjoy this play and probably join in a chorus or two of "Danny Boy" or "Galway Bay."

This is the second presentation of The Irish...and How They Got That Way by Ivoryton Playhouse. The first was several years ago with an entirely different cast, which brings us to the important observation that this play marks the beginning of the 100th anniversary celebration of Ivoryton Playhouse.

The Irish...and How They Got That Way is at the Ivoryton Playhouse through Sunday, April 3. For more information and tickets, call Ivoryton Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

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