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Michael McIntyre Show's Ciara Mackey just what the doctor ordered for Lyric musical

Ciara Mackey made headlines last year when she was the surprise singing guest on the Michael McIntyre television show. Now she's set to star in a new musical set in Belfast, the doctor tells Joanne Sweeney why she loves both the stage and medicine

From left – Claire McCartney, Ciara Mackey and Rosie Barry who form The Jazzabelles, a new musical at the Lyric theatre
Joanne Sweeney

BY DAY Ciara Mackey is a busy doctor working in Belfast City Hospital and by night she leaves her stethoscope behind to tread the boards in a variety of musical theatre roles.

She became an Unexpected Star on Michael McIntyre’s Big Show on BBC TV last December and is now set to star early next month in The Jazzabelles, a new musical about three women in 1950s Belfast who dream of a break from their humdrum lives and stardom.

For some performers, Broadway or the West End may be their ultimate performance goal, but for the women who make up the singing trio in the play, their dream is to perform at the Floral Hall on the grounds in Belfast Zoo.

Now sadly closed since 1974 and declined to a dilapidated state, the Floral Hall became the music and dance destination of Belfast when it opened in the 1930s. It is fondly remembered by people who flocked there every weekend to dance the night away and was the place where many couples met for the first time.

Ciara (30) is a triple threat when it comes to performance as she can sing, dance and act as well as helping to save lives in her main profession – working as an emergency medicine doctor.

Originally from Dublin, she has lived in Belfast for nine years after coming to Queen’s University to study medicine.

She’s confident that The Jazzabelles, written by Nick Boyle (The Belfast Tempest, Bridges String Suite), and produced by SkinnyBone Theatre, is sure to resonate with a local audience.

“When I first read the script of the I didn’t realise that the Floral Hall was a real place as I’m from Dublin,” says Ciara.

“That’s the lovely bit to the story as the audience can place a proper venue to the musical. I’d like to go up and have a look of it for myself one day.”

Ciara will be appearing alongside Rosie Barry, who has just recently finished a spell as Gretel at the MAC’s Hansel and Gretel, and Claire McCartney of Vokxen/The Unholy Gospel Band fame, and together they make up the actual Jazzabelles, who light up the stage with their exciting jazz/swing showpieces.

Also appearing in the Neil Keery directed musical is Stephen Beggs (My Father’s Chair) and Dan Leith (Woofle).

Keery’s directing credits include Monty Python’s Spamalot (Grand Opera House), the award-winning The Drowsy Chaperone, 9-5: The Musical and The Addams Family.

Ciara first worked with Keery when she was the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot and has also worked with Rosie before, in the same production.

The course to stardom and fame is not without its challenges for the Jazzabelles, who must overcome bullying husbands, blackmail and bigotry along the way.

“Each of them are yearning for a better life in their own ways; one is stuck in a mundane job that she hates, one is thankless marriage and my character Vera, a dance teacher, is searching for the perfect dancer,” explains Ciara.

“After a chance meeting in a bar, they set up female jazz and swing vocal group with the ambition of performing at the Floral Hall and meet a manager along the way, who may or not be good news.”

Unlike the rest of the professional cast, Ciara will be combining this production with her work training as a consultant in emergency medicine, currently working in intensive care.

Growing up in am-dram circles in Dublin, she sang On my Own, the Samantha Barks hit made famous in the musical Les Miserables, on the Michael McIntyre show.

Ciara Mackey reacts after being told she is appearing on Michael McIntyre’s Big Show

Belfast doctor Ciara Mackey wowed the audience on Michael McIntyre’s Big Show by singing On My Own from Les Miserables

Having been whisked away to London for what she believed was a romantic weekend by her boyfriend Simon, Ciara – set up by her mother – was instead taken to the fictitious Grand Hotel, a redecorated part of the historic Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, from where the show was broadcast.

After being shown to their room by actors posing as hotel staff, the curtain was removed to reveal that Ciara had been chosen to sing on stage in front of the assembled audience, as well as millions watching at home.

While she received some serious plaudits for her performance, Ciara says she is not ready to give up on her medical profession just yet.

“I really enjoy my job but it’s completely different to performance and that’s what is really nice about it. I know people in both worlds of medicine and performance but they wouldn’t really understand the other’s world. Neither of them really gets the other,” Ciara explains.

“I genuinely think I would like to do both in the future as so far I have managed up until now, as I use my annual leave. Sometimes I do swap swifts with people that I work with but I’m lucky that I don’t really sleep a whole lot.”

The Jazzabelles will be playing at The Lyric Theatre, Belfast from April 5-7. Tickets from www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

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