Stage

REVIEW: Angela's Ashes The Musical

Eoin Cannon, who plays the part of Frank McCourt, with the cast of Angela’s Ashes The Musical

Angela's Ashes The Musical

Grand Opera House, Belfast

Angela's Ashes last came to the Grand Opera House two years ago when the world premiere burst onto the stage and captured the audience.

Was it too soon to bring it back? No, not at all, it's back and it's better than ever.

I wrote then that the actors become the people of Limerick, how two of the main characters - Angela (Jacinta Whyte) and Malachy (Marty Maguire) - meet and marry in America and when they return to her home place there is resistance to her husband, the man from the north, born in Toome and sinking deeper into alcoholism.

The couple face the sadness of losing babies but the two eldest boys are very involved in the family fortunes or lack of them, including Frank (Eoin Cannon) lamenting his miserable Catholic Irish childhood.

And it was pretty awful, with a father who provided no money, disappeared to London and a loving mother forced to sell her body to enable her to put food on the table for her growing sons.

This is Frank's story and he tells it well, torn between loving his father and despising him, finding a job, his ambition to get to New York where he was born and the people all have good teeth, falling in love with a girl who dies before they can plan a future, and at the age of 18 we, and he, enjoy his first glass of Guinness, then another, and another. Will he follow in his father's footsteps?

The Frank we meet is Frank McCourt who did make good, becoming an author of international repute who brought his mother and brothers to live a good life in America.

An ingenious set, a moving iron balcony of bedheads and a dozen window frames with candle light behind each so we're looking at tall tenements.

Most important of all is how the dialogue runs seamlessly into song and out again. All on stage have powerful and beautiful voices and the music is sweet.

The lighting, the choreography of actors, costumes, the band - all go to a special night's entertainment, funny and sad and always enchanting.

Just one point of protocol. During the show, four telephones rang in the audience, people talked and some were taking photographs. Distracting.

:: Angela Ashes The Musical continues at the Grand Opera House until Saturday September 7 (www.goh.co.uk).

Anne Hailes

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