We had a fantastic evening out on Thursday, WiiBoy and I. I was looking forward to this evening for ages. You see we were meeting with my show pal couple and their son for tea, then off to our favourite Dublin show venue, the fabulous character- filled and chandaliered Gaiety Theatre, to see the Billie Barry Stage School show: The Time of Our Lives. Oh, the excitement!
Now, I know a lot of you reading this will be groaning at the mere mention of the Billie Barry Kids thinking, no doubt, of the oft hinted at BBKS (Billie Barry Kid Syndrome) which seemingly involves a large dollop of cheesy smiles accompanied with a side of perceived precociousness. Please let me try and dispel that rather unfair assessment....
Before I tell you about the show let me set the scene with our little pre-show, show pals reunion! Plus kids! The perpetual circle of life, eh?
It's about four years since we all met-up so a lot of catching up and 'oohing' and 'ahhing' over the boys, how tall they're getting, who they take after etc had to be done! Then we naturally turned to reminiscing about our own show days. All kinds of things were remembered! Pre-Opening number, side- stage jitters and how they ....ahem....presented themselves got a mention. As did the rather rude names we gave ourselves once when in an extremely giddy humour at one rehearsal! Those names will not be revealed here in order to
Although we ourselves were never Billie Barry Kids (more's the pity) we had the honour of dancing as seniors in two shows, two years apart, back in the 80's as the Billie Barry reins were been handed over from Mother to daughter. The daughter worked us hard for both performances which were each approximately 7 minutes long! We loved every minute of it, every single one. Side-stage nerves were nothing on how we felt on performing at a rehearsal, in their back garden portocabin, for the awe-inspiring Ms. Barry herself! She was always extremely encouraging to us but showed no facial reaction whilst we were dancing, so it was nerve racking to wait until the end to hear her judgement! Kept us all, boys included, on our twinkle toes, that's for sure!!
So, many moons after those thoroughly memorable (to us anyway!) performances, we arrive at the beloved Gaiety Theatre with our own children to see yet another generation of BBKs perform. First thing our boys notice? The chandelier!
The last time we saw a BB show we watched through a veil of excited tears, totally mesmerized by the performances on the stage before us. We knew it would be the same this time and we were not disappointed.
It was a long but thoroughly entertaining show. The whole production, concept, set and costumes were amazing, especially given these difficult financial times. The Billie Barry Show is now only every three years, so they can do it properly. Modern technology also played an important role in this production providing some exciting special effects and allowing dance styles seamlessly segue into mid-number tap dance routines.....without any mad, frantic changing of shoes!!
The choreography was absolutely fabulous for every single number, from babies right up to to seniors. We were totally enthralled. Well done to the very talented Lorraine Barry. We wanted to up there dancing with them Lorriane! A special mention has to go to the Musical Director Peter Beckett, who's musical arrangements were fantastic. I may have tweeted last week, in frustration at the disaster that is this year's XFactor and said that you can't dissect and re-create classic songs. Well you can... when you have a fantastic MD and talented students, that is! Peter had two original compositions in this show: The Gift (Finale) and Superheroes. Oh, and Peter...our apologies for our giddy behaviour at that rehearsal many moons ago. As far as I know you escaped a name-makeover. Although, I can't be 100% sure!
Some of you may still be thinking BBKS but I'll tell you something, those kids provided far more entertainment and professionalism than this year's XFactor.
Apart from the amazing production, choreography and music/singing we were totally blown away by the professionalism displayed by all, from such young performers. Their timing, entrances, exits, holding their final positions ets turned stage training into an art form! And all the beautifully pointed feet deserve a special mention. The most important thing for ANY aspiring dancer to learn! Everyone on that stage performed to the best of their ability, excelled even. To see the 'babies. perform was enchanting. The girl 'fairies' were lead by a front row of four 'older', more experienced girls, one of whom is a daughter of an ex-Billie Barry friend of ours. Dancing in her mother's footsteps, at the tender age of seven! Incredible maturity! Such a beautiful dancer. The boy 'Superheros' were great too and one very young and very enthusiastic Superhero charmed us all and had us in stitches! I'd go as far as to say that he stole the show!!
And all this done without a cheesy smile or any display of precociousness whatsoever. All we saw was bright eyes, smiles, enthusiasiam, professionalism and a level of maturity and stage presence that we achieved only in our late teens/early twenties!
That is the stage training provided by this school. Since 1964. The highlights of the many Theatre,TV and Film appearances by many BB students over the years takes up an impressive two pages in the programme!
There's also a list of some well known past pupils. A lot of other past pupils are pursuing successful careers here and in the UK. Some run their own stage schools!
This is a huge life experience for these children, learning their craft, immersed in fun and encouragement and making friendships for life.
Just like ours.
Stage schools like this provide a supportive outlet for talented children and help keep musical theatre alive.
Judging by the performances of Billie Barry's grandchildren I'd be hopeful that the school will be continuously in good hands for years to come.
I hope all the students involved in this production did indeed have the time of their lives. They will have fond memories of this for years to come, of that I have no doubt.
There is nothing like live performances and I now look forward to my next one which, co-incidentally stars a Billie Barry past pupil........
Committmets- Live at the Olympia on November 10th!
Note: Photo credit: heathermillan.com