The society is the brainchild of independent councillor, Kieran McCarthy, who has appeared on the stage of the Cork Opera House with small parts in shows such as Oliver and The Sound of Music.
McCarthy is directing Sweet Charity, which was a Broadway hit, and is funding it himself for €6,500. “I’m involved in roads and housing, as a councillor, but I’m also finding that people want to work towards a goal and engage in civic development,” says McCarthy. “I love musicals and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with the late Bryan Flynn.”
Cork, says McCarthy, has a rich tradition of musicals, but, up until now, hasn’t had a musical society for decades. “Thirty years ago, the city might have had two or three musical societies, but they disappeared. I think it’s time for the city to rise again, with a musical society.
“There are a lot of stage schools, but they’ll only take people so far. After Leaving Certificate year, people who want to continue performing as adults have to do a course at the CIT Cork School of Music or Colaiste Stiofán Naofa. This new society is about bringing people together who have an interest in musical theatre.
“There are a lot of primary school teachers who were members of the Mary Immaculate College Musical Society. They are bringing a wealth of experience to Cork City Musical Society. With the disparate backgrounds of the members, it’s a social inclusion project.”
About 50 people responded to an open audition call at the Firkin Crane, in February. Sweet Charity has a cast of 35, with Blackrock native and Cork School of Music student Shannon Hurley starring as Charity.
“Some of the crew are working for stipends and I’m paying the musicians. If the musical sells out, we’ll be looking at topping up the stipends. I’d love to be in a position where I could put away €2,000 or €3,000 for next year’s musical. What I’m doing is a personal risk, but it’s doable. I need to get 500 people into the Firkin Crane over four nights.”
McCarthy says he’s conscious that this is his first time directing a show. “It’s a massive learning curve. I have experience in theatre and I’ve seen a lot of shows over the years. But I’m under no illusions.
“To put on a musical is very challenging, not to mind constructing a musical society and pulling a production team together. The biggest challenge is trying to bind the cast together. It was a blank page, production-wise, at the beginning,” he says.
Well-known songs from the musical include ‘Hey Big Spender’, ‘If My Friends Could See me Now’ and ‘The Rhythm of Life.’
And, like the lead character, Charity, McCarthy is an optimist. He says that the production could be a stepping stone for cast members hoping to carve out a niche in musical theatre.
McCarthy says he would love to direct My Fair Lady, although the cost of costumes could be prohibitive. But, for the moment, McCarthy is focusing on his low-budget debut show in a spirit of hope.