Above from left: Kaylee Garcia (playing young Joan), Phil Godon (her Uncle Nick), Fran Pinkerton (Joan Finnigan tells the story)
About a hundred people attended the dress rehearsal of this year’s Stone Fence Theatre production – I Come from the Valley! Tales & Times of Joan Finnigan – in Rankin on July 11. Director Chantal Elie-Sernoskie and Valley Vic (Ambrose Mullin) introduced the evening saying it gives cast and crew a chance to work out any timing or technical kinks. Inviting an audience to a dress rehearsal turned out to be a great idea – we had fun hooting at the jokes and clapping in time with the music. I’m pretty sure it was an actual blooper though when Valley Vic smoothly ad libbed a reminder for producer/writer Ish Theilheimer to turn on his mic in one skit. Anyway we could all hear him much better after we finished laughing.
The original musical blends clever writing by Theilheimer, additional lyrics by Johanna Zomers, wry humour, excellent pit musicians, great ensemble choreography, stunning stepdancing and a selection of Joan Finnigan’s most funny and poignant stories.
The cast is really strong – some new faces as well as experienced players – as is the singing. Kaylee Garcia, playing the role in Luna Nordholt’s absence, was impressive as the young Joan. Fran Pinkerton played the adult Joan. Her character’s appearance changed through the decades while telling tales at her typewriter or performing a solo.
Above: Hannah and Kieran Donohue stepdancing
The song melodies echo traditional Irish/Celtic tunes in keeping with Finnigan’s heritage. The pit band features the Donohue family of Douglas – Aidan (17), Mhari (15), Hannah (13), Kieran (10), and their mother Siobheann, all multi-instrumentalists and born show people. Hannah and Kieran also had on-stage roles and the audience was thrilled with their incredible stepdancing.
Kudos to director Chantal Elie-Sernoskie who has taken on a show with the weight of Finnigan’s formidable reputation and the expectations of the whole Valley. She expertly combined a hefty technical component of period photos and films with the original music. Her creative direction turned it into an unforgettable evening.
You’ll get no spoilers from me. If you were lucky enough to know Joan Finnigan, you simply have to go to this show. And if you only ever heard about her, you also have to go to this show. That’s easy to do with Stone Fence Theatre’s new online booking. Click HERE to visit the website.
Ambrose Mullin and Chantal Elie-Sernoskie