One-on-one with Anne Gildea of The Nualas, Ireland's most hilarious theatrical export since Riverdance.
Forget Destiny's Child; I've just met the most booty-licious trio to appear on these shores since the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. The Nualas are a group of Irish gals who met in a Dublin kitchen in 1995. When Josephine O'Reilly, Anne Gildea, and Susan Collins got together over crudité at a party, their shared love of food, comedy and music inspired them to start a trio that debuted at a local comedy club. They were a hit, and were soon performing at fringe theater festivals and collecting adoring fans everywhere from Scotland to Australia to Singapore.
I can't imagine what crooning about the joys of body hair in Singapore must be like, but these girls are seriously cracked in the most appealing way. Last year, they completed a 64-date tour of England and Wales, culminating in a performance with The Corrs at Royal Albert Hall in London. Now the bespectacled glamazons are here, at the Irish Arts Center, in the second installment of the third annual Irish Comedy Festival. Wearing godawful, skintight lamé dresses they swear have been soundproofed so that we don't hear their biological clocks ticking, the Nualas sing, dance and flirt about the most bizarre topics, from Donald Sutherland to the hazards of Riverdance. I spoke with the tallest Nuala, Anne Gildea, about this evening of music, laughs and conversation.
JIM CARUSO: When did you get to New York?
ANNE GILDEA: We got here on October 2. We were just planning to do a three-week run, but then we got a wonderful review in the New York Times and business boomed. We've extended until we have to go back to Ireland on November 19. We're so thrilled that it's gone down so well here.
JC: How did you end up coming to the Irish Arts Center?
AG: We'd heard that there was a group of Irish comedians doing the Center, and we thought, "Hey! We want to do that!" Then we met our Associate Producer, Tom Kibbe, who is from the Cort Theater in Los Angeles. He saw the show in Dublin last Christmas, got a group of investors together, and here we are.
JC: Your material is hilarious. Give me the dirt on your show.
AG: The premise is that we are country girls who think we're in a supergroup. We think we're fantastic stars. Each one of us is named 'Nuala,' which is a country girl name, usually a nurse or an air hostess...not really the name you would associate with a celebrity pop star. The material is rather earthy in nature. We sing about hip replacements, fast food restaurants, working on the farm, and, inevitably, love. It's a pop esthetic imbued with a real, down-to-earth approach to life.
JC: You came to New York at a sad time. What has your experience been like?
AG: The atmosphere of September 11 was still very much in the air when we arrived. It's amazing how New Yorkers try to get on with things, though. So many people have come to the show and said it's the first time they've laughed since the 11th. Our show is so much an Irish experience; you come into our world, and I think it's a great escape.
JC: Do audiences here laugh at the same things as they do in Ireland?
AG: They do, because everybody has to laugh at the idea of girls from Hicksville thinking they're so great.
JC: But we make superstars out of them over here. They get network specials!
JC: Have you been to New York before?
AG: I was here on holiday five years ago for a few days, but I really had no feel for the city and had nothing to compare it to. When we first got here on this trip, the city was very quiet, even around 42nd Street. Now, it seems like things are really back in motion and people want to get back to work.
JC: Have you met any particularly interesting New Yorkers since you've been here?
AG: There's a woman who lives near the Empire State Building named Betty, who's come to the show several times. She has absolutely no Irish ties but has come to the show time and time again, and she keeps bringing more friends. We love Betty!
JC: Have you been able to get out and experience much American culture since you've been here?
AG: One of the Nualas worked with an American improv company in Amsterdam; and one of her friends, Seth Meyers, just joined Saturday Night Live. We watched that last week and loved it! We've been down to the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv group, which was fantastic. They have someone in the audience tell the story of their life and then the company does a very loose improv based on the story. Absolutely brilliant! The way they access their subconscious comedy minds yet keep a collective mind is stunning. I'm dying to go see The Producers. Can you get us tickets?
JC: Are you crazy? Good luck!
AG: [laughing] I thought not. Other than that bit of news, our whole stay here has been absolutely charmed. We were even lucky with the apartment where we're staying--you have no idea how beautiful it is. We went through hospitalityco.com, a company that does short-term lets on apartments. First, we were in the Garment District. Then, when we were extended, we moved to Riverside Drive on the 31st floor overlooking the Hudson River and all the skyscrapers of Manhattan. I can see the Statue of Liberty right now; it's fantastic! You wouldn't think you'd come to New York for the sunsets, but I tell you, they have been unbelievable.
JC: You're living the Irish version of La Vida Loca!
AG: It's true! We're just having an amazing experience all the way around. It's been stretch limos, stretch jeans, and stretch marks.