There’s something refreshingly different about the new Irish Musical ‘Most Peculiar Dreams’.  The story centers around Irish American Family the Donnellys, in post-World War 2 New York. Youngest child Shawn Donnelly Jr. sets out to seek fame and fortune as a singer and entertainer without the blessing of his family. Without giving too much away, he soon discovers all that glitters is not gold. The show reflects on how small interventions and chance encounters can affect an individual’s fate for better or worse.

There have been some well-known names associated with the show since its inception four years ago. Callum Martin [Sondheim Student of the Year Finalist 2022, currently on tour with ‘The Commitments’] Leah Barniville [Britain’s Got Talent and West Side Story Bord Gais Theatre Dublin], Brian Gilligan [Britain’s Got Talent and West End – The Lion King], Kevin Hartnet [Virgin Media Television’s The Big Deal] as well as Riverdance stars Avril O’Toole and Natalia McGough have all been involved in workshopping the show and recording the soundtrack. Dr. Martin O’Leary [NUI Maynooth/IMRO Irish Composition Summer School] has been involved in the show since its inception. A noted international composer, Musical Director O’Leary was responsible for all but four of the arrangements and co-produced all the songs for the soundtrack. With such a stellar list of stars being involved in the development of the show, it was interesting to note that O’Leary and Foran chose to use a relatively unknown but nonetheless very talented cast for the short Irish tour which finished at the Moat Theatre in August 2023.

The young cast gave excellent performances throughout. Juliet Hill [18] and Caitlin Rose James [19] shone as Henrietta Harmon and Mary Margaret McCarthy with some truly outstanding vocal performances. Conor MacNamee gave a steady if somewhat understated performance as Shawn Donnelly Jnr. There are few young male performers who have the range to pull off such a vocally challenging role. MacNamee did an admirable job in what was his first lead role. Newcomers Jordan and Jessie Fairchild did a fantastic job playing alongside seasoned performers Amy Sanfey, Rory Day, and show creator Fergus Foran. Kyle Laing as Bobby Collier was a revelation. His ability to communicate with the audience on a comical and at times sinister level showed ability far beyond his eighteen years.

The choreography by Caitlin Rose James performed by her dance troupe chosen from Phoenix Theatre Arts in Dublin was a treat to watch. The use of dance as a means to communicate the story helped transport the audience to that almost familiar dream state the show sets out to create. The songs in this show were perhaps the biggest surprise to an audience possibly weary of unsuccessful attempts at emulating the formulaic standards of days gone by. There are so many gems in this show. They are as much a part of the story as every written word. From the Shakespearean reference to the Sycamore Tree in Henrietta Harmon [Desdemona in Othello] to the nod to Bogart and Bob Hope in Café of life there’s plenty to reflect upon and plenty of ‘earworms’ to take home. Lullaby and I stood Beside You stood out for me capturing tragic loss and the healing process which follows. Also, anyone who has lost a parent would find it hard not to shed a tear during ‘Daddy Can You Hear Me?’ which eleven-year-old Eleanor Foran performed flawlessly with MacNamee.

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