Frank McCourt’s THE IRISH…And How They Got That Way, at the Davis Square Theatre (next to The Burren through March 17) showcases six talented musicians in songs from the traditional “Torra, Lorra, Lorra” to Bonno’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Each sings, dances and plays myriad instruments in service of a revue, with a narrative surrounding each song.
Music director Jon Dykstra and company are to be commended for performing without those pesky body microphones which get in the way of many a show. It’s refreshing to see performers who can project and sing perfectly well without artificial amplification.
The musical part of the show is delightful. The narrative, however, is mighty thin in spots and of all things, is lacking much passion. (What’s an Irish show without pathos?) I kept wishing Brian Friel had written the prose. His Translations says more about what the English perpetrated on the Irish than any of McCourt’s “historical” skits, some of which, about drunken Irishmen had my Irish-American companion and me cringing in our seats.
Meredith Beck looks like she’s been plucked out of Riverdance or the Irish Women show. Her lovely voice and sweet flute dovetail nicely with Irene Molloy’s gorgeous harmonies. Janice Landry made my favorite song, the plaintive “Fields of Athenry” a heartfelt, sorrowful show stopper.
Dykstra, Andrew Crowe and Gregg Hammer (he with the requisite Irish tenor) make “The Ghost of Molly McGuire” a searing indictment of coal mining. The whole company pitches in for a rousing “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye.” If only director Danielle Paccione had interpreted some of the other songs as revolutionary anthems. (I guess I was pining for the old days when the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem would infuse their rebel songs with such emotion that you’d feel like joining up.)
Since I’m on the subject of what was missing: Toward the end of the show, they throw out a list of famous Irish and Irish-American writers and politicians and nary a woman on the list! Where was Flannery O’Connor or Mary McCarthy or Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976? And I can think of lots more. They got my Irish up, all right.