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Irish Repertory Theater Celebrates 33 years and Harold Prince

Irish Repertory Theater Celebrates 33 years and Harold Prince

On Monday, June 13th, stars once again came to Town Hall after two years to celebrate the Irish Repertory Theater and the Musicals of Harold Prince. The audience was excited to see what Charlotte Moore, the long time Artistic Director, and Ciaran O’Reilly, Producing Director had in store for them and by the end of the night no one was disappointed.

As this was a celebration of the theater company, their supporters and creative team, the evening started with presentations of awards and honors. Artistic Honorees were two wonderful wardrobe designers who have been creating costumes for the theater’s productions for thirty years, Linda Fisher and David Toser. A video of a collage of their widely diversified costumes showed decades of creativity and artistry that demonstrate that the quality of their work, despite the budgets of a not for profit, can rival any multimillion-dollar budget on Broadway.

The Visionary Leadership Award was presented to Loretta Brennan Glucksman, whose philanthropy, activism and diplomacy have bettered the lives on both sides of the Atlantic. Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to a father who was  a life long US postal worker, it is inspirational to see how she has been able to deliver her own messages of kindness and generosity.

After the speeches and presentations, it was on with the show and an amazing tribute to the genius of Hal Prince. Joel Grey, who informs us was ready to give up acting after some early career disappointments, fortunately changed his mind when a young Mr. Prince called to offer him a role as the emcee in a Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret. We can only wonder how many other struggling actors’ lives took a different trajectory thanks to a call from Mr. Prince.

Interspersed throughout the evening were video interviews of The Prince of Broadway introducing the songs that were wonderfully sung by a talented cast of performers. The music director and conductor, John Bell, led an incredible orchestra and a chorus of singers whose voices filled the Town Hall.

Individual performers of the evening included Mark Evans who started the evening singing Company which was part of an overture celebrating Sondheim musicals Forum, Company and Merrily. He returned later in the evening joined by DeLaney Westfall and the chorus to sing Make Our Garden Grow from the musical Candide. Their harmonies were incredible and beautiful.

Max von Essen and Amanda Jane Cooper showed us why Mr. Prince chose to direct the musical, She Loves Me, back in 1963, only the second show he directed. Singing the revelatory songs of this couple’s love, Vanilla Ice Cream and She Loves Me, Amanda and Max, respectively, brought wit and emotion to these wonderful tunes.

After many productions with the likes of Kander and Ebb and of course Stephen Sondheim; Mr Prince’s first director experience with Andrew Lloyd Weber was Evita and Donna Kane, in a glittering dress that could very well have been designed for the real Ms. Perone, sang its signature song Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, reaching the high notes that are so essential to the music. Later in the evening his other ALW collaboration came to life as Ciaran Sheehan and Kaley Ann Vorhees dueted beautifully with Music of the Night and All I Ask of You from Phantom of the Opera.

Among these wonderful ballads and love songs the fun and lively Heart from Damn Yankees brought lightness to the evening as sung by William Ballamy, Jonathan Hadley, Jay Aubrey Jones, Ashley Robinson, the chorus and the appreciative audience.

Glenn Close was scheduled to appear in person on stage but she was unable to attend so she was able to send a video of her singing a heartfelt Send in the Clowns. She was not the only Tony winning performer and Broadway legend that wowed the audience that evening. Howard McGillen, who has been the Phantom on Broadway for 2.544 performances, was able to sing unmasked Not a Day Goes By from Merrily We Roll Along. It was a pleasure to hear him sing the song that in the musical is sung by the character, Beth, giving a male voice to the tune.

All these performers were top notch; but, there were three wows in the evening when originators of the roles they created on Broadway came out on stage to audience ovations. Michel Bell, who played Joe in the 1994 production of Showboat, proved that his baritone was still as strong as it was 25 years ago when he sang Ol’ Man River in that Tony Award winning production.

Len Cariou, fresh from presenting a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award to his Sweeny Todd costar Angela Lansbury brought that main character back to life with a medley of Sweeny Todd and Pretty Women. It was thrilling to see him recreate this character for which he won a Tony.

Chita Rivera, WOW, CHITA!, the original Anita from West Side Story sang a medley from that show, starting with the iconic lyric, “A boy like that who’d kill your brother.” Well, she killed it herself as she sang and did some dance steps to America. She continues to prove what a Broadway legend is.

The entire evening was a fantastic tribute to The Irish Repertory Theater and a reminder of why this company has been such an important artistic asset to New York City since Charlotte Moore and Ciaran O’Reilly opened its doors in 1988.

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