Erin Go Braghdway and Beyond
St. Patrick's Day theater paints the town green.
It seems that the hallmark of good theatre--or clever marketing--these days is an association with a holiday. No December would be complete without A Christmas Carol or a Radio City spectacular. The Vagina Monologues and Tony N' Tina's Wedding have each claimed an alliance with Valentine's Day. Easter is already booked with a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar and a one-woman show from the season's favorite cottontail, Lady Bunny, in A Taste of Bunny. For Halloween, there are plenty of theatrical horrors--some are even intentionally frightening. Likewise, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, several shows are hoping to find themselves in the green.
Topping the list is the hilarious interactive production Finnegan's Farewell. "The show was initially created at the request of club owners in Atlantic City who wanted entertainment tailored to St. Patrick's Day," says producer Joe Corcoran. Telling the tale of an Irishman who dies after winning a million-dollar jackpot, this comedy follows the shenanigans of the Finnegan family-and their guests as they mourn, fight, drink, dance and eat their way from a wake at St. Luke's Church to a farewell celebration at the Edison Hotel. "Finnegan's Farewell is the perfect option for anyone planning a night out on March 17," remarks Corcoran.
Despite its funeral-inspired premise, Finnegan's Farewelloffers St. Patrick's Day revelers quite a delightful time. "Our audience can celebrate St. Patrick's Day the way they would celebrate it anywhere else--only with better entertainment and without the hassle of being in a crowded bar," boasts Corcoran. The energetic production features a traditional Irish buffet, live music from Marie Reilly & the Dublineers, the spirited dancing of The River Kids, and its own procession through Manhattan. Corcoran notes, "Everyone is invited to march in our parade!"
In the tradition of other long-running interactive shows, Finnegan's Farewell encourages patrons to join in all of the evening's activities. The winner of a sprightly game of "pass-the-potato" gets to toast the late Finnegan, and it's not uncommon to find an audience member overplaying his or her role. "People have tried to revive the body," laughs Corcoran. "Everyone's a ham!" (Full disclosure: Corcoran is one of the co-founders of Theatermania.com.)
On Broadway, James Joyce's The Dead is also a celebration of life. Recently, brassy Tony Award-winner Faith Prince replaced Blair Brown in this highly acclaimed musical. Based on a short story from James Joyce's 1914 collection "The Dubliners," this production comes to the Great White Way by way of Playwrights Horizons and is set at a holiday party where a guest's song awakens long-buried memories of a lost love.
Welcoming Prince into the fold is an impressive ensemble led by Christopher Walken, best known for his work in such films as The Dead Zone, The Deer Hunter and Pennies from Heaven. Other cast members include Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley, Stephen Spinella, Sally Ann Howes, Daisy Eagan and Marni Nixon.
Distinguished as "the first Broadway show of the 21st Century," The Deadwas originally scheduled to end a limited engagement on March 11. Betting on the luck of the Irish, however, producers recently announced that The Dead would play an open-ended engagement--one that will allow the production to run through St. Patrick's Day and, most likely, through to the Tony Awards when producers hope to discover a pot of gold.
The producers of Riverdance on Broadway are also hoping to kiss the Blarney Stone. With champion Irish dancers Pat Roddy and Eileen Martin plus an international company of 80 dancers, singers and musicians, Riverdance on Broadway plans to open on St. Patrick's Day itself. Since 1995, more than 10 million people have seen the various worldwide incarnations of Riverdance while millions more have experienced the show through bestselling videos, CDs...and late-night television skits.
Conceived and created especially for Broadway, Riverdance on Broadway, in addition to breathtaking dancing, offers flamenco star Maria Pages, South African vocalist Tsidii Le Loka, the voice of actor Liam Neeson, and Irish singing sensation Brian Kennedy. After being cast, Kennedy exclaimed to The Irish Times, "I'm tickled pink to have been asked to join Riverdance on Broadway!" Pink? Doesn't he mean green?
For fans of solo shows, Michael MacCauley offers Sure of This One at The Tribeca Playhouse until April 8. Directed by Charles Gale, MacCauley's self-penned show begins in a Mexican restaurant and ends with a whirlwind tour of Ireland and Notre Dame football games. The nonstop journey is a testament to the people who have guided the Irish actor through life. "It is also a chance to explore the magic, mystery, pain and pleasure along the way," says MacCauley. "This amazing journey is so filled with possibilities!"
For anyone looking for a piece of Irish history this St. Patrick's Day, one needs to search no further than the Irish Repertory Theatre. Their production of John Murphy's The Country Boy discovers Ireland, circa 1959. Set in the Emerald Isle's County Mayo, The Country Boyexplores an emigrant son's return to his homeland after fifteen years in America. With staging by Irish Rep artistic director Charlotte Moore, The Country Boy stars Dara Coleman, Valorie Hubbard and Ciaran O'Reilly.
Finally, you can celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Irishman George Bernard Shaw's military satire Arms and the Man. Starring Henry Czerny, Katie Finneran and Paul Michael Valley, this production by the Roundabout Theatre examines the glories of modern warfare as they relate to a bonbon-carrying soldier.