How did Irish men ever get the reputation for being quiet? Anyone with actual on the ground experience of the nation knows that, like the Rolling Stones song, once you start them up they never stop.
Talking, that is, and usually about themselves, with great sympathy.
But Hollywood loves a good myth, and in The Quiet Man, that remarkable 1952 romance directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara at the peak of their careers, they found a doozy.
Set in an Ireland so irresistibly saccharine that you can literally feel the cavities forming in your mouth as the opening music plays, The Quiet Man is an easy film to mock the overly syrupy presentation of the Emerald Isle and its charming and whimsical inhabitants.
Directing a musical, on the other hand, is among the most challenging things you will ever do. But don’t doubt the Irish Repertory Theatre’s ability to spin fine gold from the most hokey of premises, however.
Donnybrook! is the rather ironic name of the short-lived 1961 musical based on The Quiet Man (it opened on May 18, 1961 and closed on July 15 of that year) that will begin performances at the Irish Rep on February 7.
A big boisterous musical of the golden era, it’s an interesting pick for the Rep’s artistic director Charlotte Moore, who’ll be tasked with making songs with titles like “The Loveable Irish” and “Wisha Wurra” sound like they have a basis in reality and not just the sentimental dreams of Americans pining for the old country.
As we know, the musical tells the story of the returned emigrant John Enright, an Irish American prizefighter who has vowed never to raise a hand again to anyone after accidentally killing a man in the ring.
But before you can say faith and begorrah, Enright has met and fallen hard for the wonderfully spirited Irish village maid Ellen Roe Danaher, who wants a man who’s her equal and will settle for nothing less.
With a score that includes the ballads, “He Makes Me Feel I'm Lovely” and “I Have My Own Way,” expect to be instantly transported by the irresistible mixture of sweetness and hard won experience that characterizes the Irish Rep’s best musical works.
Meanwhile, over at the Irish Arts Center from Friday the 15th, the legendary, lofty Malachy McCourt will preside over a welcome revival of A Couple of Blaguards, the unmissable autobiographical show that he wrote with his brother Frank (before he won worldwide fame with his 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela's Ashes) and that he will perform this month with Mickey Kelly.
You won’t find any quiet men or lovable rogues populating this uniquely searing (and often unspeakably funny) tale of poverty, hunger and despair on the streets of Limerick, but you won’t forget a line of it either, so well has it been crafted and performed to date.
America is always the pole star for and the guide post for the two McCourt’s, the longed for terminus for their long planned escape, but first we must take a trip through the Irish times and places that have haunted both men for the entirety of their adult lives.
It being an Irish play, it happens to music, and you can certainly think of A Couple Of Blaguards as an overture for the books that turned the literary world on their head in the 1990s.
But in a way, both men had been preparing to play their respective roles all of their lives. For years Malachy had held forth behind his bar and brother Frank behind his teacher’s desk, all the while in preparation for a swansong unlike anything seen before in Irish literature.
There’s a particularly poignant and appropriate reason for this four performances only revival of the play now, with all proceeds from the shows to benefit the Breezy Point Hurricane Sandy victims through the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.
The center’s funds are currently helping Breezy Point victims with making rent, finding alternative accommodations and purchasing building supplies. Any additional donations will aid the entire Rockaway community by restoring the basketball courts in partnership with GAA.
Even now the McCourts’ unforgettable stories have lost none of their power to help and heal.
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