Bob Goepfert: The Irish And How We Got That Way | WAMC

Bob Goepfert: The Irish And How We Got That Way

Jun 7, 2020

This is a time where small things – even promises we only hope can be kept - lift our spirits.

Recently, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the Artistic Producing Director of Capital Rep, announced the postponement of the summer show “Sister Act- the Musical.” It was, she said, construction issues related to Covid-19 that caused the delay. 

However, as if to compensate for the immediate loss of “Sister Act,” Mancinelli-Cahill promised that “The Irish and How We Got That Way,” will find a slot in the new 2020 - 2021 season at the company’s new theater space.

To understand the optimism of the scheduling, a little history is in order.  The last live theater production I attended was “The Irish and How We Got That Way.” It opened at Capital Repertory Theatre on March 10. The review never ran because Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the banning of future mass gatherings the next day.     

Even though there has been much more serious heartbreak since the shutdown of “The Irish….” it was, at the time, stinging for Capital Rep and the cast. This was the final show at the Market Theatre, on North Pearl Street in downtown Albany. The space was once a Grand Cash supermarket converted in 1981 to a temporary theater space. In this case temporary lasted 30 years.  

A final production to honor those thirty years filled with fond memories was taken away from the theater, Mancinelli-Cahill and the theater’s supporters.   It was more a shame because “The Irish and How We Got That Way,” is the kind of show that has you leaving the theater in a good mood and reflective on how important history is to a culture.  And make no mistake – theater is a culture as much as are the Irish, the Italians – or name any other nationality.

The show is a charming mix between music and dance and includes a lot of storytelling.   In performance, it is neither a play nor a musical revue.   Actually, it’s a form of vaudeville.  And for this production of ethnic vaudeville, Capital Rep assembled a cast that was ideal individually and wonderful as an ensemble.  Mancinelli-Cahill says it is her goal to reunite the cast for the revival.

In a recent email, Mancinelli-Cahill, who directed the production, addressed its success, saying, “I think the exuberant nature of the music with folks that are real Irish storytellers was particularly special because we were all working to make it completely our own.”

To see how successful Mancinelli-Cahill was in making the show “completely our own” it is possible in the near future, by going to the YouTube Channel of Irish Repertory Theater.  The new digitized version of their original production of “The Irish …” will soon be available. For information, go to irishrep.org. 

“The Irish and How We Got That Way” was created by Frank McCourt, the author of “Angela’s Ashes,” for Irish Rep back in 1988.  It was a loosely thrown together piece of material, but wonderfully entertaining and designed for specific actors.  

For other theaters who later produced the work, the presentation was kind of extemporaneous.  The result is that every production of “The Irish….” is unique unto itself.  Mancinelli-Cahill says that “Irish Rep is a delightful bunch who were incredibly supportive of our efforts to make it our own.”

So, if you go to Irish Rep’s YouTube site between – and you should – you will have a sense of what you missed this March at Capital Rep. But be aware, it’s not the same. It’s a different cast, with different staging and above all, it’s not live.

If nothing else, it will give you even more reason to hope we can all soon gather together to enjoy live theater in the not-so-distant future. 

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

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