Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Wire Men"

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entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"The Wire Men"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The second show at Summer Stage at Bishop Hendricken is the United States premiere of "The Wire Men", a new Irish musical by Shay Healy. The small village of Kilnacree is the setting for Shay Healy's charming musical which is a picture of the past about a community that is on the brink of change. This story captures the life of the small village and of the Foley family that has grown smaller from the death of their father. In the corner of the family's field sits the plow that the father died behind while working so hard to keep his family's land from being taken away. His memory and a promise made to him by his son prevent that field from being used in a process that will bring electricity into this rural Irish community. The Wire Men called the "Lightning Jacks" arrive from Dublin, the big city, to connect electricity to Kilnacree. Their presence in the countryside of North Mayo, challenge the old ways of thinking about family, life and love. It brings about events and relationships that both literally and symbolically bring about a brighter future for all involved and the illuminating reality of how everything will never be the same. the electrification of this small village calls into question what the future will hold, and how lives will be forever changed. For the Foley family this reality is especially meaningful. The show is filled with traditional Irish sound and dance which has been created by Shay Healy. The sixty four year old author was in attendance on opening night and will be there for all the performances. His show is a delightful mixture of the old world values meeting the realities of the future and the need for people to adapt and change to a new and better way of life for the good of the whole community. Director Brian Codeiro casts 53 multitalented teenagers in this US premiere and the acting, singing and dancing of these young people is amazing to behold with their brilliant and dynamic portrayals of these people of the past. Their Irish brogues are all perfect and they make this show into one that people of generations to come can enjoy. Bravo on a job extremely well done.

Brian creates a picture perfect setting of a village in Ireland, with astro turf, gardens, fences and little stones. He uses two standing screens to depict the sky, stars and moon as well as easily moved table, benches, chairs and set pieces to change the locales. Once the poles were set up by the Wire Men, the four big electric lanterns lit up the whole village. Shay's music ranges from toe tapping energetic numbers to tear jerking ballads and all of them humable and singable unlike a Sondheim score and the cast excels in their vocals and dancing. The musical combo included musical director, Justin Forte on piano, Greg LaPointe on fiddle, Victor Main on guitar and Paddy O'Halloran on whistles, accordian and uilleann pipes. The choreography by Teresa Pearson is astounding. She gets everyone to dance in perfect unison to some difficult high stepping numbers especially impressive are the 7 wire men who had several intricate dance steps to do. Brian is aided in this huge task by his hard working stage manager Chris Tucci, his technical director Brother John Kiernan, his lighting designer, Jordan Fielding, Costume designer, Kerrin Nagle, sound designer, Paul Silva and Sheila Hogg, the dialect coach who obtained perfect brogues from all 53 performers. Kudos to the tech crew who kept things running smoothly all night long.

Leading this huge cast as Paidi Foley, the hot headed son who wants things to remain the same, is Hendricken high school senior, Joseph Fielding. He is dynamite in his first leading role. Joseph is tall, blond haired with blue eyes with the brooding and smoldering intensity that the role calls for. He also has an excellent tenor voice which he uses in solo lines throughout the show but he is very impressive in his poignant solo "The Hills of North Mayo" where he reminisces about how he has taken care of his father's field and how beautiful the countryside is, and also in the tear-jerking duet "Mother and Paidi" where Paidi finally realizes electricity is best thing for the whole community. ( I finally caught up on things with Joseph's father, Steven who I hadn't seen since 1979 when we both played roles in Prout/Hendricken's summer production of "1776".) Playing Kate Foley is Katie Ryan, a senior at LaSalle who has a gorgeous soprano voice and some high stepping and energetic dancing ability, too. She leads the girls in the rollicking "In My Life" where she and her two sisters wish for romance, "Don't Go Looking at Me'' where the daughters tell the mother not to make them get engaged to a boring neighbor and "Older and Wiser" where the daughters and mother console each other after the parish priest "names" Paidi as a dissenter from bettering the community. "Older and Wiser" is the most poignant song in the show with nary a dry eye in the whole theater. Katie's duets with her love interest, the Lightning Jacks foreman, Charlie Peacock played excellently by Chris Maymon, a Hendricken junior, are "I Don't Know How Me Mother" where they debate how they should tell her mother about them being in love and in "Sail Away" where they wonder where to run to their next destination. Chris shows off his strong singing voice in "Kilnacree" and "Waiting for Love" a gorgeous romantic ballad. He and Katie deliver the goods in the romantic scenes as well as in their argument scene, too. The matriarch of the Foley clan is played fantastically by Ashley McKhann. She gives this woman a strong backbone to deal with her head strong daughters and her angry son. Her beautiful singing voice is heard in many numbers in the show including the comic "Don't Go Looking a Me" with her daughters, the serious "Mother's Lament" where she worries about her children and two songs which will tug at your heartstrings, "Older and Wiser" with her daughters and "Mother and Paidi" with her son. Her other two daughters, Brigid and Sarah are wonderfully played by Sarah Lucier and Jess Keane who have lovely voices,too. They play the broad comic moments with joyful glee and the poignant ones with heartbreaking sentiment. Paidi's long suffering fiancee, Maureen is beautifully played by Julianna Forsberg-Lary. She puts up with Paidi's constant outbursts and still loves him dearly. Maureen gets a chance to flirt with the head wire man, Tommo during their "Lightning Jacks'' song and in "Supposin''' where they imagine what it would be like to love one another but she eventually decides to stay with Paidi, admitting she loved him all along.

The head wire man, Tommo Cavanaugh is fabulously played by James Patefield. He and his band of impish, naughty wire men are fantastic in all their songs and dances especially in "Lightning Jacks" their introduction to the town, "The Good Old Ways" where they have a tug of war with the local men and in "Dublin The Town". James is a wonderful actor, too. His merry band of men are played by Scott Fielding, (Joe's younger brother) John Ryan-Henry, Alex Fisher, Luke Doyle, Sean Flaherty and Alex McKhann. The parish priest who runs roughshod over this village community is well played by Hendricken senior Daniel Molloy. He gets to show off his singing voice in "New Community" where he wants the old and the new ways to meld together for the good of the community. The heavy drinking impish village matchmaker, Michillin is excellently played by Colin Nagle who will be a freshman at Georgetown University in the fall. He gets to sing "The Matchmaker's Song" with Mrs. Foley and her neighbor, Tadghai Reagan where he wants one the Foley daughters to be matched with her neighbor. Nathan Ricci plays the shy neighbor wonderfully. Tadghai who is as meek as a mouse finally saves the day when he offers to buy the Foley's field so electricity can come to this town. Bravo to all the performers in this show who deserved the standing ovation at the end of the night. So for a chance to see the United States premiere of a stunning new musical, be sure catch "The Wire Men" at Summer Stage. It's one of the must see shows of this summer. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Wire Men" (27 July - 4 August)
Bishop Hendricken High School Theater, 2615 Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI
1 (401) 739-3450 ext. 172

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