a review
by Cindy Reich
I was smitten before ever seeing the play upon entering the Denver Victorian Playhouse. A lovely house in a residential neighborhood, built in 1911 with a small theater built in the basement. The Bungalow Theater was active for decades and then later was used as a church space and even a meeting room for Girl Scouts. Reborn as the Gaslight Theater in 1956, it gained national attention for many of its plays until 1984. For another number of years, the theater continues as the Denver Victorian Playhouse. Fast forward to 2000, when it was closed down and then 2005 when it was purchased by Wade and Lorraine Wood. It has a charming athomosphere upstairs where refreshments are on hand and one can retire to the original owner”s study, with floor to ceiling glass fronted bookcases filled with scripts of plays. At intermission, homemade cookies, coffee and soft drinks are available and a small bowl awaits donations. The furniture and contents of the downstairs are all period furnishings and takes one back to a nobler, more genteel time. I absolutely had to be torn away to go downstairs to the theater. The seats are the same red, padded ones you sat in as a kid in the movies, with folding chairs set directly in front of the stage. It is cozy and intimate, yet the room seems to expand and you feel you are in a regular theater the moment the actors hit the stage. Stones in His Pockets is the story of what happens in a small, rural town in County Kerry, when an American film crew arrives to make a film. Jake Quinn has just returned from a stint in America, and meets up with Charlie Conlon, as both have acquired jobs as extras on the film. Charlie has fallen on hard times, but has high aspirations and Jake is trying to adjust to life back in Ireland. It is a fast paced and very demanding role for actors Seth Maisel and Austin Terrell, who between them play a total of 15 characters. With simply a change of hat, or the appearance of a pipe, characters change back and forth rapidly, but quite seamlessly. A credit to both actors. Caroline Giovanni, the star of the film, is played to hilarious perfection by Maisel, and the old-timer, Mickey, is scarily perfected by Terrell as he ages instantly before your eyes, before switching back, perhaps, to Aisling, the prissy, condescending third assistant director. This character, more than any other provoked belly laughs from the audience. Although there is much to laugh about in this comedy, it is also poignant in its themes of aspirations versus reality, the glitter of Hollywood and the despair of living in rural Ireland. “Stones In His Pockets” written by Marie Jones, won the Laurence Olivier Award for best Comedy in 2001, and it is easy to see why. Directed in its Denver appearance by Wade P. Wood, it is wry, engaging, fast-paced and laugh out loud funny. A great example of intimate, local theater. Something that all of us should support in a big way. Having been to many productions in New York, Chicago, Dublin and beyond, I cherished the opportunity to see this production in this venue. My only issue is with the accents, but I have found that Americans doing Irish accents invariably end up sounding like something between Daniel Day-Lewis” Belfast accent in “In The Name Of The Father” and the leprechaun from Lucky Charms. But I”ve learned to get over it, and to be fair; a Kerry accent is probably one of the hardest accents to nail in Irish accent-land. So all is forgiven. And actually Seth Maisel does a respectable Scots accent”but if you want to find out where that fits in, you”ll have to see the play!!! “Stones in His Pockets” is playing through April 5 at the Denver Victorian Playhouse for more information, check out the website at: www.denvervic.com

Celtic Thunder, a brand-new show created and produced by Sharon Browne, the original producer of Celtic Woman, will make its debut in the U.S. with a Public Television special airing on local stations nationwide beginning this month. It will air March 14th at 7 pm on Channel 12. Celtic Thunder, a brand-new show created and produced by Sharon Browne, the original producer of Celtic Woman, will make its debut in the U.S. with a Public Television special airing on local stations nationwide beginning this month. Filmed in the Helix in Dublin last August, the special features five male vocalists, performing an eclectic mix of songs ranging from the traditional “Mountains of Mourne” and “Come By the Hills” to international hits such as “Brothers in Arms” and “Desperado,” as well as original compositions by Celtic Thunder”s musical director and composer Phil Coulter. The ensemble numbers reflect the power of the soloists, who range in age from 14 to 40 and share a common Celtic heritage. Viewers who support the public television stations airing CELTIC THUNDER during the stations” fundraising campaigns will have the first opportunity to get tickets for a 50-city U.S. tour scheduled for Fall 2008. (Please visit www.celticthunder.com for a list of confirmed tour dates.) Viewers will also have a chance to Pledge for a bonus-feature-laden special edition of the Celtic Thunder CD/DVD that will be released in the U.S by Universal”s Decca label on March 4th, 2008.” Catch Celtic Thunder when they appear on NBC”s coverage of the 2008 New York City Saint Patrick”s Day Parade on Monday, March 17th at 11 am.

by Cindy Reich Phil Coulter is no slouch. He wrote songs for Elvis, wrote the mega-hit “Saturday Night” for the Bay City Rollers and produced three albums for “Planxty” (for the traditional music lovers in the audience). It”s impossible to pin him down and put him in a box. Pop songs that he”s written have gone to number one many times and sold tens of millions of albums. Some of his most powerful songs are ballads such as “The Town I Loved So Well”. “Scorn Not His Simplicity”. “The Old Man”. “Steal Away”. Just to name a few. His Tranquility series were groundbreaking and defied categorization again. Phil took great traditional songs of Scotland and Ireland (and a few of his own); set them in orchestral settings and the results were phenomenal. Speaking from his home in Ireland, Phil Coulter took some time out to chat with Cindy Reich of the “Celtic Connection”: Phil, I have to tell you that I got an advance copy of Celtic Thunder and am totally captivated by “Steal Away”. It is the best track of the lot. Somehow it never crossed my radar when the Furey”s did it, but this version is spectacular! “Thank you! That”s a song that has been around for a long time and I have to tell you I have a soft spot for that wee song. I know its not a big song, an important song ” its not “The Town I Loved So Well”, but what flatters me is that people sing “Steal Away” in folk clubs here in Ireland and believe the song has been around for a hundred years.” I agreed that it does have that timeless quality that could have been a song from a hundred years ago. Phil went on, “They”re the hard ones to write”the ones that are deceptively simple are the harder ones to write. I”m glad you”ve discovered it!” I enthused about the harmonies and the quality of tenor Paul Byrom”s voice, as Phil replied, “Celtic Thunder was a big, big involvement for me last year as the kind of musical ringmaster and musical creator–finding slots for existing songs or writing the new material or slotting in the other songs be they Irish or the big pop anthems like “Knights in White Satin” or “Desperados”. It has been a labor of love, but it has still been a labor. It has been a big, big investment of time and energy, so I hope I got it right.” Phil, you”ve gone all the way from pop and rock and traditional to stage shows”Eurovison, the whole lot. You are not a one trick pony. You”ve had many, many major hits. How do you maintain such a high level? “The simple answer to that is I regard it as my job. And because you get a few hits doesn”t mean you can take your foot off the pedal. It doesn”t mean you”re entitled to any more. It doesn”t mean you”ve cracked it. It doesn”t mean you”ve discovered the formula. It doesn”t mean you”re some kind of alchemist that can make hits out of nothing. What it means is that by applying your work ethic to your talent”you put the ingredients together in a way that it worked and you just hope that along the road that you”ve learned from those experiences and you”ve got in your toolbox the tools to do it again. There are no guarantees. This is my job. It is as simple as that and it”s a job I take very seriously.” “It”s a great job”, he continued, “and there are a lot of people who would crawl over broken glass to have it. I work hard at it and I think I do it reasonably well. It”s a lot of spade work. It”s a lot of digging away at the seam beneath the ground until you hit the gold.” Yes, I replied, but you”re a craftsman, like a master craftsman of any sort of art. “I”m glad you say that”, said Coulter, “Because I keep preaching this to the youngsters that come into the game. I was a visiting professor in the music department at Boston College for a number of years and whether it was a student there or someone coming into my orchestra, I would tell the kids a number of things. I would tell them that because you”re talented, don”t believe that the world owes you a living, because nothing is further from the truth. Your talent entitles you to nothing. Your talent is something you inherited. It”s a gift from God. You inherited it from the genes of your parents. But don”t think that because you are born talented that it”s going to be easy. You start congratulating yourself when you work at your talent and turn it into something, you know? Learning the craft.” “Songwriting”that”s another one of my hobby horses when I get on my soapbox and talk about songwriting”, he continued. “It is a craft. There”s no such thing as a born songwriter. There”s no such thing as a born silversmith. There may be somebody who has a great eye and a great hand who can work with the raw materials, but you have to learn the craft and how you put the skill and ingenuity together to be able to turn out something worthwhile. And that”s what songwriting”s about and that”s what crafting a record or a stage show is about.” I agreed and said that you must continually adapt, because your audience changes all the time. “Nothing is forever, you”ve got to keep changing. Even people”s expectations of a stage show”twenty years ago, they would”ve been content to see three or four guys and a half decent PA and a few shining lights. Now, for the big acts there have to be pyrotechnics and state of the art lighting. At that kind of level, people expect it.” Yes, I agreed, but now you also have to compete for people”s attention in a world where everything is a sound byte and people need to be entertained to a phenomenal level in three or four minutes or they just walk away. “Then”, Phil continued, ” you have to ask yourself, how much of the bells and whistles are covering up for the fact that the actual content”that the substance is missing?” But then we can go back to the success of the Tranquility series, I countered”this is a great segue–because here is something that you”ve been doing for a long time”taking songs with great lyrics and taking the lyrics away to concentrate on the melody. “In the midst of all the changing fashions and fads”, Phil said, “whether it may be rap, or whether it may be R&B or teeny bop or whatever happens to be fashionable, the one thing that endures is quality. The one thing that endures is a good tune, and if you look at the history of popular music you”ll see that. In the midst of all the madness, the diamonds will always come through. So the choosing of a song in my repertoire is a critical part of the whole exercise and that”s where being a songwriter helps me. The songs are the real stars of the whole show, whether it be on the record or on the stage, I reckon. It”s a question of leaving the space and letting those melodies breathe. The strings and the other instruments provide the carpet that the melodies can dance on. Its as simple as that.” I love words, I countered, and most ballads I latched on to were because of the words, but having said that, there are some songs, that the melody is so captivating, I never even hear the words. “That”s the great irony”, said Coulter. “The whole Tranquility series is taking those great songs and stripping away the lyrics which in many cases were every bit as good as the melody. And that doesn”t mean that I am not a lover of words as yourself. As a songwriter, I would take as much pleasure and I would spend as much time crafting a lyric as I would a melody. A song like “The Town I Loved So Well”"that melody came within a week, I would say. But the lyric took me a year, because I just knew, given the circumstances, and given the volatility of the atmosphere in the north of Ireland, that this song was addressing, that I had to be very careful in my choice of words and images.” ” Had I not thought this one through, just a few ill chosen words here or there would have just tilted the song and I”d have made it into a rebel song and that was the last thing that I wanted to achieve, and the last thing this country needed was another rebel song. The crafting of the lyric and the honing down of the words and the choosing of the words is something, which again, is part of the craft that gives me great satisfaction and delight.” But that is one of the great ironies of yourself, I countered. Here you are, a master craftsman of lyrics”one of the most powerful songs, ever”"The Town I Loved So Well”. Songs like “Scorn Not His Simplicity”, “The Old Man”"these are really strong songs, lyrically. So you take these same songs that have such power because of the way they were crafted with words, and then remove the words. “Maybe that is something that appeals to my quirky sense of humor. It kind of wrong-foots people”, Phil continued. “I like confusing people. I refuse to be pigeon-holed. I”m not comfortable being put in any box and that”s why the whole idea of new challenges and the whole idea of re-inventing oneself is important to the whole creative process. That”s really why I took on the Celtic Thunder project. I can do this. It falls within my remit”I can call on a lot of the skills I”ve learned. It”s a big project, its going to take a lot of time, but you know what? ” I can do this.” Phil Coulter has just released “Timeless Tranquility” a twenty-year celebration of the Tranquility series on the Shanachie label and a DVD, filmed on location in Ireland, “Tranquility Classics, A Journey Through Phil Coulter”s Ireland”. You can also check out Phil Coulter”s website, www.philcouter.com or www.shanachie.com

The O”Boyle”s recently celebrated their first anniversary at their Irish pub and restaurant and are delighted with the results of their efforts and risk. “We opened our doors January 1st 2007 and have never looked back ” I have to say, of all the places”I have worked from Dublin to Melbourne Australia to New York, Pogue Mahone’s has probably the best customers I have ever seen.” said Carl, adding “It has a great family atmosphere and everybody gets on really well. I don’t think I am the only one who has made a lot of friends for life since we opened ” And if it were to all end tomorrow, we would all be the richer for Pogue Mahone’s.” Pogue Mahone”s offers authentic Irish food, including traditional specialties like Irish Breakfast, Guinness Beef Stew, Bangers & Mash, Harp beer-battered Fish & Chips and Mrs. O’Boyle’s own recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. Mouth-watering entr”es include Irish Duck Breast, Salmon O’Boyle, Dublin Roasted Pork, and Dublin Medallions. Weekly events and pub specials make the atmosphere fun and inviting. Live Irish music is scheduled for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with Poker Night, Guest Bartender Night, and Irish Night (specials on Irish food and beverages) fill in the rest of the week. The O”Boyle”s are gearing up for a big St. Patrick”s Day on Monday, March 17, “We have Chris Parente and Channel 2 TV coming in early to do the live morning show, so if you want to be on TV come on down ” we will be open at 6:40 in the morning with live Irish music and dance ” continuing til” 2:00 am! So, how did they come up with the name “Pogue Mahones”? Carl laughed and at the frequently asked question. “I have no idea, I just always liked it ” its an old Irish expression loosely translated to mean “how do you do”" he explained with a sly chuckle. So stop in for a visit to the family-owned business and welcome the O”Boyle”s to Colorado with a big hearty “Pogue Mahone!” Smooch! Pogue Mahone”s Irish Pub, 17904 Cottonwood Drive, Parker, CO 80134, 720-870-5720, info@poguemahones.net, www.poguemahones.net

Ms. Kretschmar, 22, is a Denver native and a full time student, who is currently on the Dean”s List and National Scholars” Honor Society at Metropolitan State College of Denver. She is working towards a degree in psychology with a minor in communications. She is employed full time for an investment banking firm in downtown Denver where she provides IT and office administration support. She volunteers with various organizations striving to make a difference both locally and worldwide. For example, Kelly serves food to the homeless at the Denver Rescue Mission. She also is involved with Women for Women International, an organization that provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with encouragement, hope and support to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. Growing up, she was surrounded by the members of the Denver St. Patrick”s Day Parade Committee of which she is now a member. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, crafts, and the amazing Colorado outdoors. Kelly will reign as Queen Colleen for one year and will represent the Parade Committee at many community events. Ms. Kretschmar and her court of 15 ladies will ride in the Bellco Credit Union Denver. St. Patrick”s Day Parade on Saturday, March 15 in lower downtown Denver.

Ronan Noonan has one of the best jobs in Colorado; he is the Smithwick”s Beer Ambassador. Diageo-Guinness Manager Tom McGuire who is involved with the Ambassador”s visit commented, “This is a grass-roots marketing approach to generate brand awareness for Smithwick”s”. Smithwick”s could not have picked a more enthusiastic Ambassador than the 26-year-old from Cork, Ireland. “I love doing what I”m doing, it”s just the best job I”ve had in my life,” said Ronan, “I”m one of the happiest people in the world to be here at the moment ” I can”t emphasize how much I like Denver and the States.” In a perpetual but sincere state of gratefulness, Ronan continued. “I love the people that I work with and am delighted that I got this opportunity ” The people I”m with in Denver are absolutely top notch ” some of the nicest guys I”ve ever met,” he said, referring to McGuire and Kevin Fitzgerald of Diageo-Guinness. “I would like to thank everybody who has made my life easier to adapt in Denver ” my friends Thomas and Kevin and Christiana at U.S. Consulate marketing,” Any one else that you would like to thank? “My parents for giving me the personality to go off and do this ” I”m just happy to be here and have met so many friends and I hope it continues.” With that kind of attitude one would expect so. Ronan almost missed out on his dream job. His two big passions are soccer (he was an award-winning player in college), and travel. His travels had already taken him to Europe and the U.S., when about a year ago he began to plan an extended tour of South America. Ronan had been going to business school for accounting and was having second thoughts about the career choice; he thought that a long stint in South America could bring some clarity. “Then a friend rang me up and said, “Look, I was just on line and saw a job that I think would suit you down to da ground”". His friend explained the job over the phone which seemed too good to be true. Ronan, “being a Cork man, being a bit wily” he decided to do his own research. “I checked it out and thought “this looks like a dream job”, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring ” so 3 or 4 interviews later…” He left it to fill in the blank, which would be ” he got the job as Ambassador of Smithwick”s, and envy of many young men from Dublin to Denver. Arriving in Denver in early January, Ronan brought with him a casual sense of humor to his Ambassador title. He recalled a woman from Kerry that he met in Colorado who asked him if he was an actual Ambassador. He set the record straight with a smile. “This Ambassador title looks good on paper, but I go into a pub like you or anybody goes into a pub for a pint ” at the end of the day I”m just a regular Joe who enjoys a pint of Smithwick”s and wants other people to enjoy a pint of Smithwick”s with him.” Smithwick”s has been providing pints in Ireland for longer than the United States has been a country. When asked how the Americans have taken to the beer Ronan said it was all thumbs-up. “It”s very easy to get people to try a beer that has stood a 300-year test of time in Ireland. There is a reason that it”s Ireland”s top Ale ” It”s smooth tasting, and it doesn”t give you an aftertaste in your mouth.” He added with a laugh, “”As St. Patrick’s Day approaches I’m reminded of an old Irish saying from back in 1710: “A pint of Smithwick’s, please.” According to Ronan “Once people get to know about Smithwick”s it”s going to get big in Denver!” He gave a couple of suggestions on how to maximize the Smithwick”s experience. First, like Guinness take some care in the pour, secondly use a 20-ounce glass which is the way it is done in Ireland “You shouldn”t be drinking Smithwick”s or Guinness, which are two Irish products from a 16-ounce glass, when at home in Ireland we drink them out of a 20 ” drink it like pure Irish in a 20-ounce glass.” And how about the pronunciation? “Be sure to order a pint of our ale, like we do in Ireland. For example, “I”ll have a pint of SMITH-ICKs please.” Or “How about a round of SMITH-ICKs.” Or even, “SMITH-ICKs for everyone in the pub ON ME!” The Smithwick”s Beer Ambassador project will run through the end of March, with Ronan spreading the word of his favorite Ale. You catch up on Ronan”s activities on his blog at www.blog@smithwicks.com

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