CATHERINE Mahon-Buckley, who is directing the Everyman pantomime for the 25th year, is a force of nature.
Cinderella is at the Everyman until January 13. For bookings see www.everymancork.com
DIRECTOR and co-writer of Aladdin, the Cork Opera House pantomime, Trevor Ryan has achieved his three professional ambitions. The 46-year-old Douglas native always wanted to perform in the Opera House pantomime.
“I was in the chorus initially. Once I had done that, I was a principal and then, I wanted to direct the panto.”
Trevor, who recently became a father, remembers being taken to the Opera House pantomime as a child with his brother, his parents and grandparents.
“That’s how it all started for me. I was watching the likes of Paddy Comerford and Billa O’Connell on the stage. That’s my recollection of going to the theatre.
“My parents wouldn’t have been great theatergoers but panto was very much part of our Christmas. I remember some of the pantos really vividly. I caught the bug and knew I wanted to be up there on the stage. Getting the opportunity to share the stage with Paddy and Billa was like a dream come true.”
Between starring, directing and producing the show, this is Trevor’s 24th pantomime. His fifth year directing, he is confident that Aladdin will go down a treat with audiences.
“The Disney movie of Aladdin, with Robin Williams as the genie, is very popular. There’s a remake of Aladdin coming out next year with Will Smith playing Aladdin.”
The story, from the Arabian Nights series of Middle Eastern tales, is enchanting with special effects including a magic carpet. Frank Mackey, the Dublin-based Cork-born actor, co-wrote the pantomime with Trevor.
“We have taken a bit of poetic licence with the story,” says Trevor. “Frank has established the character of Nanny Nellie over the last few years and he will play that character as Aladdin’s mother.
“Aladdin and Nanny Nellie live in China Town in Peking with Aladdin’s brother, Wishee Washee, who runs a launderette. Aladdin’s nemesis is Abanazar who is trying to seek out entrance to the cave of wonders to get the magic lamp and rule supreme. The only person who can enter the cave is the diamond in the rough, Aladdin.”
Princess Jasmine is played by Caoimhe Garvey from Kerry. Aladdin is played by Kian Zomorodian and Barry Keenan is the genie. Michael Grenell plays Abanazar.
Trevor says because it is prohibitively expensive to build the pantomime set in Cork, an elaborate and opulent set is being hired from Qdos, a leading UK pantomime producer company.
“The cloths alone would take weeks and weeks to make. It’s very much a Middle Eastern looking set. Some of the panto is set in Egypt. It’s full of Cork references. We have actually written a song this year which has over 100 Cork streets referenced. It’s sung to the tune of the Can-Can. Frank Mackey sings it. I think it will be a show-stopper.”
The last Aladdin pantomime to be performed at the Opera House, five years ago, was directed by the late Bryan Flynn.
“I was in that production as Abanazar. Both myself and Frank Mackey learned a huge amount from Bryan. One of the things he created, that you don’t really see anywhere else, is the chase. It’s basically a seven or eight-minute mash-up of a number of different songs with the cast running around the stage. In this case, they’re running after the lamp. Bryan created the chase about 12 years ago and we’re carrying on the tradition.”
As soon as the curtain goes up on the pantomime at the Opera House, the following year’s pantomime title is decided.
“Pretty much as soon as the title is decided, we start story-boarding it and looking at ideas for the following year. We start writing the script in March. With Frank based in Dublin, we send each other snippets of script and normally, by mid-June, we would have the first draft done. We submit it to the Opera House for feedback and comments and then it goes back and forth.
“The script for this year’s panto is the thirteenth version of the script. There’s a very clear narrative in the story with lots of local references and topical humour. We edit a lot in the rehearsal room. The cast is very much involved. It’s a not a dictatorship. We appreciate the feedback from the cast and if they suggest something, it goes in if it works. Anything that doesn’t work is cut out.”
Trevor appreciates “the phenomenal team” behind the show.
“The Opera House throws a huge amount of resources into the panto. The budget is sizeable. There’s a huge amount of cast and crew involved, about forty to fifty people this year with a further forty kids from local stage schools. The stage manager who runs the whole thing for us is Aisling Fitzgerald.”
As co-director of the Montfort School of Performing Arts, Trevor recently directed the musical Legally Blonde, which was performed by the youngsters in the Montforts at the Everyman.
“We played to capacity houses. It cost €35,000 to put on,” he says.
Trevor says he probably broke even, which is all he can hope for. Producing musicals is an expensive business and Trevor says that the Cork Opera House “are the only people in Cork taking a risk on large scale musicals. Apart from the Opera House, it just doesn’t seem to be happening.”
Trevor and his wife, Jennifer O’Sullivan, who met through theatre, recently welcomed their first child into the world. Annabel is three months old. She attended some of the rehearsals for Legally Blonde, delighting the Montfort children. Costume designer for the pantomime, Joan Hickson, is making harem pants, a little top and a veil for Annabel, in the style of Princess Jasmine.
“Much as I’d like to take Anabel to the opening night of Aladdin, we’ll probably take her to a matinee, tucked away at the back of the theatre. If she starts to scream, then we’re out the door!”
Aladdin is at the Cork Opera House from November 30-January 20.
See www.corkoperahouse.ie for bookings and dates.