December 26, 2007

Apparently, this was a sad day for the people of Ireland. This was the day that Joe Dolan, the legendary Irish singer, died. In all honesty, prior to this evening, I had no idea who he was. But a gotta say his tunes are catchy! Imagine if Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli had a love child. That’s Joe Dolan!


Tonight I had the privilege of witnessing the North American premiere of “The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down” performed by the Toronto Irish Players. The play starts by introducing you to 10 loveable characters who all reside in County Cavan, Ireland and frequent The Glenaduff Inn for a few pints on the day after Christmas. Each character has their own idiosyncrasies and although we really only see the majority of characters in Act 1, each one was entertaining and had their own story to tell. Through a combination of sexual drama, liquor and a few hits of pot, the audience is taken through a night filled with laughter, music and a few show-stopping numbers by Joe Dolan himself!

One character that does grace us with his presence the entire show is the loveable, obliging bartender, Barney, played by Stephen Flett. When we first see Barney, you don’t think much of him. He’s pouring drinks for customers and basically minding his own business, and then outta nowhere you find out he’s been sleeping with someone’s wife AND with a girl young enough to be his daughter. Hell of a left turn! Stephen was adorable, funny and so comfortable to watch. I assume he’s a veteran of the stage, based on his ease and a bit of Facebook stalking, and I really enjoyed watching him develop his character and have some fun with Act 2.

Now every bartender needs his loyal, slightly alcoholic customer. Willing to play the part is Ian McGarrett who portrays The Horse. I honestly wonder if Ian was drunk up there (and I mean that in the best way possible!). He was hilarious and really hit the nail on the head with The Horse. He was kind (when needed), good an’ drunk (all the time) and wore that cowboy hat with swagger & style. Ian & Stephen were a grand pair and really did some fine acting opposite each other.

For the majority of Act 2 the 4th wall is broken by the man of the hour, Mr. Joe Dolan. I was impressed to learn, by eavesdropping at intermission, that Hugo Straney made his onstage debut tonight in the show’s title role. Considering I had no idea who Mr. Dolan was, I wasn’t able to truly appreciate Hugo’s performance until I got home and switched on youtube. Wow! Hugo WAS Joe Dolan! He looked like him, sang like him (beautiful voice!), walked like him, did hand gestures like him and rocked that white suit! What an iconic Irish character to play your first time onstage. Comhghairdeas Hugo!  (p.s. for all you non-Irish peeps out there, that means Congratulations!)

Additional Shout-outs:

  1. To James O’Meara for a simple and lovely set.
  2. To Rebecca De La Cour and Kelly Marie Murtha for battling it out over that stud-muffin Barney!
  3. To Sinead Ni Bhraoin for playing the touching role of Jane.



The Toronto Irish Players’ production of “The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down” is playing at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street, Toronto) from February 16-March 4th. Visit for information on tickets. Go raibh maith agat! 


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