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Portlaoise Musical Society continue to lead the way as they prepare for return to stage with ‘Sunshine on Leith’

Portlaoise Musical Society

The award-winning Portlaoise Musical Society will premiere as the first Irish musical society to perform with an Irish sign language interpreter at its show on Monday, November 21.

With a cast and ensemble of 55, ‘Sunshine on Leith’ will illuminate the dark winter nights when it kicks off at the Dunamaise Arts Centre from Saturday, November 19 to Saturday, November 26.

Irish sign language interpreter Mary Guest will accompany the show to ensure that everyone can experience the magic of the production.

A portion of seats will be reserved at the performance on Monday, November 21, for  audience members who benefit from the presence of an interpreter. All seats for the ISL assisted performance are priced at the reduced rate of €18.

Mary Guest, originally from Moneygall, but living in Tullamore, is a primary school teacher and a qualified ISL-English interpreter, having studied at Trinity College Dublin. She became interested in sign language after taking part in evening classes in Tullamore. 

Secretary of Portlaoise Musical Society, Hilary Treacy, said: “We are so excited to finally get back on the stage and bring sunshine to the people of Laois in this gem of a show, and to present a more inclusive event to our local community. 

“We received a lot of support from various vested individuals and organisations when we initially introduced the idea of having an ISL interpreted show, and we are so grateful to Mary that our hopes can become a reality.”

The musical society received letters of support from Minister for Disability, Anne Rabbitte; Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, and  local TD, Brian Stanley.  

Support and encouragement was also welcomed from  Laois Arts Officer Muireann Ní Chonaill; the sign language interpreting service; Reach Deaf Services and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, which regularly runs performances with the assistance of an ISL interpreter. 

Michelle de Forge, director of Dunamaise Arts Centre said she was happy to host the event as a test run for future events in Portlaoise that may be enhanced by ISL or other aids to assist with people’s enjoyment of the arts. 

Featuring music by Scottish rock duo The Proclaimers who  sent a recent video message to wish the society well, ‘Sunshine on Leith’  is a funny, energetic and heartfelt piece of musical theatre about the power of home, family and love. 

The story follows the highs and lows of Davy and Ally, who, after coming home from serving in Afghanistan, have to re-learn how to live life in Edinburgh, together with their family and friends.

Don’t miss the timeless songs of the much-loved Proclaimers, including ‘I’m Gonna Be’ (500 Miles), ‘Letter from America,’ ‘I’m on my Way’ and the emotive ‘Sunshine on Leith’ performed by the multi award-winning Portlaoise Musical Society.

 Portlaoise Musical Society, established in 1999, has won many accolades over the years including most recently A.I.M.S. ‘best overall show’ with Titanic – The Musical in 2019 and ‘best overall show’ (runner-up), ‘best visual’ and ‘best actor’ (Shane Kelly) with ‘Ragtime-The Musical’ in 2020.

‘Sunshine on Leith’ has been a stage hit across the UK and further afield and recently enjoyed sell-out success and high acclamations at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

The show is brim-full of emotion and energy with lots of enjoyment for those on the stage and in the audience. The music is well known and with the talented team, crew, cast and chorus, all involved are confident of, yet again, enthralling audiences.

The show features an award-winning production team including director Paul Norton, musical director Emer Hartnett and choreographer Stephanie Browne with a cast and chorus of 55 people. 

Paul told LaoisToday that he originally was a member of Tullamore Musical Society and got involved with the local shows through working alongside fellow prison officer Tim Keane in Portlaoise.

Paul has been involved with Portlaoise Musical Society from its inception, playing Jud Fry in its first production, ‘Oklahoma.’

He has directed ten of Portlaoise Musical Society’s previous productions and has also a slew of on-stage roles. “Claire Carroll and Olive Maher are the only others that have been involved in the cast of Portlaoise Musical Society since ‘Oklahoma,’” said Paul. “Standards have gone right up over the years and a lot of awards have been won.”

The main cast includes some faces  well known to the Dunamaise stage as well as some new blood including Shane Kelly; Eoghan Fingleton; Aishling Rohan; Sarah Troy; Hilary Treacy; Andrew Docherty and Aoife Digan. 

Supporting roles will be performed by Rory Chadwick; David Walshe; John Lynch; Johnny Mulhare; John Coss; Aishling Geoghegan; Tríona Talbot; Emma Phelan; Dawn Kavanagh; Joan White; Claire Carroll; Derek McGinn; Jamie O’Callaghan; Laoise O’Connell and Teresa Lynch.

As part of the front of house display for the show, Portlaoise Musical Society’s resident photographer, Terry Conroy and ‘Sunshine on Leith’s’ director Paul Norton will present a photographic exhibition of Edinburgh.

The display will feature an additional photograph by member Derek McGinn, who is well-known in Portlaoise for his presence on the stage. Derek is an avid sunset photographer.

The featured photographs, which were taken in Scotland’s capital city, show a city full of character, culture and heritage. The exhibition of photographs have been on display at Dunamaise Arts Centre since Thursday, November 10 and will continue for the duration of the show, and until Tuesday, November 29. 

The photographs are  for sale, with all proceeds going to the society’s fundraising. Terry Conroy, associate of the Irish Photographers Federation, is a Portlaoise-based international award-winning photographer. This is Terry’s seventh year to photograph the society’s shows.

‘Sunshine on Leith’ is written by Stephen Greenhorn and was created and produced by Dundee Rep Theatre, Scotland’s leading production theatre. This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International. 

Tickets for ‘Sunshine on Leith’ are on sale now at €20/€18* (*Monday only)  from Dunamaise Arts Centre box office, phone 057 8663355 www.dunamaise.ie  

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Caroline Allen is a freelance journalist based in Portlaoise. She has written for numerous local and national publications and lives outside Portlaoise with her husband Martin and sons Evan and Colin