Thursday 23 November 2017

New musical Noël is right on song

By Esther Hayden

Eoin Colfer, Michael Londra, Liam Bates, Steve Peters and Ben Barnes.
Eoin Colfer, Michael Londra, Liam Bates, Steve Peters and Ben Barnes.
Aileen Mythen and Tony Carty.
Aileen Mythen and Tony Carty.
Rehearsals in full swing in the National Opera House, under the watchful eyes of Michael Londra and Eoin Colfer (left).
Michael Londra and Steve Peters producers with Venu Works Theatricals were in The National Opera House on Wednesday evening to preview Noel the show written by Eoin Colfer and music by Liam Bates.
Rehearsals in full swing in the National Opera House, under the watchful eyes of Michael Londra and Eoin Colfer (left).

It was only logical for Wexford singer Michael Londra to return to Wexford to stage a new musical theatre piece because of the wealth of talent available in the county.

The show, 'Noël', is written by Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer with music by Liam Bates. 'Noël' is a beautiful story of a young girl who loses her singing voice with the disappearance of her mother. On a journey to find her, Noël meets a motley crew of characters who want to help. Nick, a disillusioned homeless man with a secret, forms a bond with the child. In helping Noël, Nick rediscovers his belief in the magic of Christmas and in himself. The piece, is fun for the whole family, a feel good show but with a story line touching on the very real issues of homelessness, bullying, loneliness and the materialism of the holidays.

Venuworks Theatricals, a US based theatrical production company, which is run by Michael and his business partner Steve Peter, will stage the show.

Noël will debut at the National Opera House in Ireland on December 19, 2016 for a week of performances in an orchestral setting, with a view to a US premier on Broadway in 2017. Last week Michael and Steve jetted into Wexford to host a mini musical workshop to see the talent in Wexford.

Michael said he was overwhelmed by the performances on the night especially as the performers only had a few days to practise.

'We have been working on this for the past three to four months from the States. We flew in last week to hold the workshop and it was amazing. I have always been talking about the talent that is here in Wexford and sometimes these things are taken with a pinch of salt. But when everyone saw the calibre of the performers they were blown away.

'We assembled a group of 15 people and presented five songs from show. It was off the charts fantastic. It was very emotional.

'Eoin's script is fantastic and Liam is a beautiful composer. Everyone got so excited after hearing it. I get to hear Broadway workshops all the time but this was so strong, it was amazing. I'm not just saying it because everyone was from Wexford, it was just really amazing.

'The whole show just has heart to it. There's one song, Hope, and it is spectacular. If it doesn't make people bawl I don't know what will.

'Tony Carty was fantastic. I'm probably a bit biased because he is my first cousin but he was brilliant. I hadn't seen Aileen Mythen perform before but she took on three different roles on the night, including a 10-year-old child and she was amazing.

'Our next step is to find our little girl Noël. We will do a workshop in the summer to try and find her and will be looking in Wexford and all over Ireland.'

After leaving Wexford Michael then headed to London where he was involved in a number of discussions over there about the show. 'We are looking at all our options. While there is definite Broadway interest and people are coming to Wexford from New York we want to look at all our options to see what is best for the musical.

'Broadway might not be the best place.'

Michael said that when the show premiers in Wexford in December there will be a full orchestra on stage which will be truly spectacular. 'There will be a 25 piece orchestra on stage and the set will be built around them.'

Michael said he is delighted to get the opportunity to finally work with old school friend Eoin Colfer. 'Eoin and I were in the same class together so we've known each other since we were kids. When he started to do well and I was making a name for myself we'd hang out talking about what we would like to work together on. We tried to do it a couple of times before it didn't work out for on reason or another.

'Eoin mentioned the musical to me about a year ago and I said to bring it to me first. He sent me three songs and the script and I loved it.

'He has really hit a nerve with it and everyone is jumping on it because it is so good. It's great to see the fruition of the work. We've been talking about working together for years and now we are finally getting to do it.'

Michael said he will be returning to Wexford in the summer looking for a child to play the role of Noël whom, he said, 'has to be someone pretty special. We will be looking for six principals from Ireland and I think that the talent we have here in Wexford is spectacular.

'Within 48 hours notice last week the members of the Light Opera Society and choirs had rehearsed the pieces and I just can't describe how fantastic they were. I can't wait to hear the reaction that the people of Wexford have to this.'

Venuworks is no stranger to large theatrical productions having co-produced the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of You Can't Take it With You starring James Earl Jones and has interests in the current Broadway production of Something Rotten and the West End Production of Hand to God. Londra's company is also involved in programming for many theatres across the US.

His business partner Steve Peters said he is happy to help showcase Wexford at an international level.

'Our new venture into original theatre involves Michael's hometown which couldn't be more perfect as he so passionate about the creativity of Wexford. I am excited to come to Wexford for the first time, to witness the talent, the warmth and the birth of a new piece of Wexford theatre. We have big plans for this show.'

VenuWorks Theatricals will also produce a Michael Londra national tour in 2017 ensuring that the next 12 months will be a hectic year for Michael.

'I have to balance my producing with my performing. I still have some singing in me but I guess producing has always been more a passion for me as my favourite thing in the world is to bring new talent to the stage. The singing has brought me loads of great opportunities around the world, so I can't totally walk away from that.'

Wexford People

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