Tue 24 April to Sat 1 May 1993
Palace Theatre, Redditch

Director – J Barrymore Lee
Assistant Director – Jean Leadbeater
Musical Director – Norma Kift
Choreographer – Paula Payne
Society Accompanist – Elizabeth Potts

Cast List
CharacterPerformed by
Mrs O'DareEileen Parish
HelenTracy Rees
JanePaula Payne
LucilleJean Chalk
VeraAlison Kift
MaryKirsty Hirons
JimmyJohn Simcock
Irene O'DareBarbara Hall
Mrs Emmiline MarshallMaree Martin
Clarkson, the butlerDavid Cruise
Donald S Marshall IIIKevin Hirons
Ozzie Babson, Donald's cousinJim Shaw
Madame LucyBarrie Cole
Arabella, a debutanteSarah Grant

Natural exuberance

Irene, a rarely performed musical comedy, was given a new lease of life by Redditch Operatic Society at the Palace Theatre. The classic rags to riches story was carried off expertly by the packed cast – fine voices every one of them.

Barbara Hall proved more than a match for leading lady Irene O’Dare. Her voice did switch between operatic and music hall mode rather unpredictably, but her projection and overall grasp of the character were all firmly in place.

The sets and back-drops were among the most outstanding to grace the Palace Theatre for years. The Marshall music room, foyer of the Astoria Hotel and the backdrop of the New York skyline were all superbly depicted.

Attempts at American accents fell foul of the pervasive Brummie in places, but natural exuberance more than made up for these shortcomings.

Barrie Cole as Madame Lucy stole many of the laughs. Perfect as the outrageous couturier, his hammy French, Italian and Irish accents were delivered to great comic effect. The camped-up pseudo-Italian of the fashion party scene provoked the biggest laughs: “Asti Spumante, vermicelli, al fresco” cried Irene, sparring with Madame Lucy’s equally daft misguided Italian argot.

The grand finale made full use of the packed chorus, belting out with the enthusiasm that secures Redditch Operatic Society’s position as one of the best-loved theatre groups in town.

Redditch Standard, May 1993

Packing ’em in

Now that’s more like it! After harping on about the lack of support at the last Palace Theatre production of Brideshead Revisited, the audience for this musical more than made up for it. Crammed to capacity they laughed, sang along and enjoyed every minute of the Redditch Operatic Society’s annual show.

Irene is set in Art Deco New York and although the story leaves much to be desired, the music is a delight. Favourites include What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For, Alice Blue Gown and the enchanting You Made Me Love You. And each song was set alongside a well thought out dance routine – but it would have worked a little better if the stage had been a few metres wider!

Credit must go to Kevin Hirons as Donald S Marshall III, Eileen Parish as Mrs O’Dare and the wonderfully French Barrie Cole as Madame Lucy (yes, Madame!) – his pink and gold outfit was quite something.

Barbara Hall took the romantic lead role of Irene, an Irish girl from Ninth Avenue, but her voice was often drowned out by the sheer gusto of the orchestra.

Redditch Advertiser, May 1993

Our View

Irene had been one of the favourite shows of a number of committee members for years, before we finally decided to perform it as a spring show – although this was as large, and expensive, production as any of our autumn shows.

The show is not widely known – but many of the songs from it certainly are.

There are about five main and nine smaller roles for principals, and the show can be worked just as effectively with a small or large company. As usual, the size of our chorus often exceeded the nominal amount that the Palace Theatre stage can cope with!

Synopsis of the Show

Act I

Scene 1 – The Piano Store

  • Irene’s Entrance – Jimmy and Chorus
  • What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For – Chorus
  • The World Must Be Bigger Than An Avenue – Irene

Scene 2 – The Marshall Music Room

  • The Family Tree – Mrs Marshall, Ladies and Debutantes
  • Alice Blue Gown – Irene and Donald
  • They Go Wild Over Me – Madame Lucy

Scene 3 – The Back of Irene’s House

  • An Irish Girl – Irene and Chorus
  • Jig – Mrs O’Dare

Scene 4 – Madame Lucy’s Salon

  • Stepping On Butterflies – Madame Lucy and Girls

Scene 5 – The Back of Irene’s House

  • Mother, Angel, Darling – Irene and Mrs O’Dare

Scene 6 – The Foyer of the Astoria Hotel

Scene 7 – The Roof Garden of the Astoria Hotel

  • Madame Lucy’s Launch – Orchestra
  • The Riviera Rage – Irene and Company
  • I Can Dream, Can’t I? (finale) – Donald and Girls

Act II

Scene 1 – The Foyer of the Astoria Hotel

  • We’re Getting Away With It – Madame Lucy, Ozzie and Girls

Scene 2 – Ninth Avenue

  • I’m Always Chasing Rainbows – Irene

Scene 3 – The Piano Store

  • Irene – Donald
  • Irene (reprise) – Chorus

Scene 4 – Ninth Avenue

Scene 5 – The Roof Garden of the Astoria Hotel

  • Great Lover Tango – Donald and Girls
  • You Made Me Love You – Donald and Irene
  • You Made Me Love You (reprise) – Mrs O’Dare and Madame Lucy
  • Style Show – Madame Lucy and Girls
  • Alice Blue Gown (finale) – Irene, Donald and Company

Book by Hugh Wheeler and Joseph Stein from an adaptation by Harry Rigby based on the original play by James Montgomery. Music by Harry Tierney. Lyrics by Joseph McCarthy. Additional music and lyrics by Charles Gaynor and Otis Clements. Original production supervised by Gower Champion. Produced for Broadway by Harry Rigby, Albert W Selden and Jerome Minskoff.

By arrangement with Musicscope Ltd and Stage Musicals Ltd of New York.

Show Photographs