The Irish… and How They Got That Way — you’ll be thrilled to find out How

In March of 2020 the world as we know it shut down… and with it, Capital Rep‘s 3-day old production of “The Irish… and How They Got That Way”. The set was packed up and placed into storage along with the rest of us. Last week, the set was unpacked along with the entire original cast in the Rep’s new home and magic was made. Welcome to a slice of history as presented in Frank McCourt’s “The Irish”. McCourt is best known as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela’s Ashes, a memoir about his childhood in Brooklyn and Limerick Ireland. 

Shown L-R- KevIn McGuire, Caroline Whelehan. Photo by Doug Liebi

This time around McCort reached once again across the pond into a small pub somewhere in Ireland. Mostly through a narrative spoken directly to the audience and an anthropological collection of music from George M. Cohan to U2 provides an overview of life in Ireland to the immigration of the Irish to America. The musical score covers nearly 50 various songs, mostly abridged versions, some more recognizable than others performed by a cast of six of some of the most versatile performers the Rep has had the pleasure to have had on their stage at any one time. They sing, they dance they act… and all superbly.

The troupe is backed by a three-piece on-stage ensemble led by The Rep’s Musical Director Josh Smith who plays a very central role in the show singing playing and acting. What is very exciting to watch is the flawless manner in which the members of the cast smoothly pick up and play a plethora of musical instruments throughout.

Patrick John Moran, Lauren Wright, Kevin McGuire, Caroline Whelehan. Photo by Doug Liebig

Kevin McGuire looks to be born to play the role of Kevin (all the actors use their own names) along with a wonderfully rich baritone voice to put over the music of the old Sod.

Patrick John Moran presents a wonderful necessary rich Irish tenor peaking with his rendition of Danny Boy. Lauren Wright, Emily Mikesell, and Caroline Whelehan round out this beautifully crafted production. Together their voices blend and soar, individually they are a delight to listen to. 

Lauren Wright, Patrick John Moran, KevIn McGuire, Caroline Whelehan, Emily Mikesell, Josh D. Smith. Photo by Doug Liebig

Brian Prather’s set design of an Irish pub could have been dropped from Galway right onto the stage of the new Rep. It envelopes one like a comfortable cozy blanket and makes you feel welcome and comforted. One almost loses the sense of stage performance and makes you believe you are in the neighborhood pub listening to this musical history lesson.

The narrative can be a bit cumbersome at times and some of the transitions a tad awkward. There is an abundance of  English bashing and exploitation in America as well as a history lesson that admits to Irish political control in the States. The music is clearly the centerpiece of the production. Artistic Producing Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill admirably helms the production with a deftness that keeps the production moving and the audience fully engaged. 

Emily Mikesell, Caroline Whelehan. Photo by Doug Liebig

That the show was closed down and March and brought back to life in November, has turned out to be a wonderful holiday gift for the Capital Region. Grab a pint, a platter of bangers and mash, and settle in for two-plus hours of wonderful holiday joy.

The Irish … and How They Got That Way runs at Capital Repertory Theatre 251 N. Pearl St. Albany through December 19. For ticket information go to capitalrep.org or 518-445-7469.

Patrick John Moran. Photo by Doug Liebig
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