Monday, February 08, 2016


Rockettes/Royalettes - Phyllis Conroy/Medlar on right.
Click any image for a larger version

There I was blogging away when the invitation from Conor Doyle dropped into my mailbox. The Theatre Royal Concert at the Mansion House, no less. So, when the day came, I polished my shoes (once a year), exchanged the pullover for a jacket (very occasionally), didn't bother with a tie (never these days), and set out for the Lord Mayor's official residence.

What, I wondered, was a Theatre Royal Concert? I was familiar with Conor's wonderful illustrated talk on the Theatre Royal. I'd been at it twice: once in City Hall and again in the Mansion House. The second time was with the husband of one of the Royalettes and the daughter of another, both these people being related to me on the mothers side.

Lord Mayor, Críona Ní Dhálaigh welcomes the audience

But a concert? And introduced by no less a person than the Lord Mayor herself?

This certainly looked promising.

A musical evening

Well, it turned out to be an updated version of the talk interspersed with live music appropriate to the occasion.

Gerry Noonan (baritone)

Gerry has a fine rich voice which he projected without the aid of any of these new fangled microphones and the like.

Dara MacMahon (mezzo-soprano)

And Dara likewise. They sounded great, both individually and in duet. Lovely blend.

Pauline Cooper

And Pauline, standing in for Tommy Dando and Peggy Dell among others.

Judy Garland

Conor had no shortage of stories, particularly about visiting international stars. Take Judy Garland who packed out the place for a week, and then sang from a side window in Poolbeg Street to the crowd who hadn't been able to get in.

Danny Kaye & Copenhagen

And Danny Kaye who not only packed out the place for a week, but broke all the rules by singing songs from his forthcoming film which hadn't yet been released. And he sang on into the night after the orchestra, who were only paid up to the official closing time, had long gone home. A great favourite with the Dublin taxi drivers he was.

Packed house

The audience was predominantly female and elderly. I could probably risk the term oulwans, being an oulfella myself at this stage. Many of them had been to performances in the Royal before it closed in 1962.

They sang along with a gusto that belied their age. And I wasn't exactly quiet myself.

The Damper Song

But when it got to the Damper Song they just lost it. Jumping up and down and making spiral staircase motions with their arms. It was nothing short of magnificent and the official performers rose to the occasion in great style. Even Conor forgot about the dicky bow and joined in.

Rathgar song/monologue

Then we had Jimmy O'Dea's Rathgar song delivered as a monologue. Now this can be a tricky one, particularly if you do it in Rathgar.

The refrain paints Rathgar as a posh refuge from the vulgar masses that inhabit the rest of the city. But there is a little something here that you shouldn't miss. Within Rathgar itself, even in those days, there were serious social distinctions. We lived for a time with my granny in Orwell Gardens, Rathgar. Now that's the other side of the fence from Orwell Road in Rawthgore. So you'll see where I'm coming from.

And I'm now living down the road from Killester, which is mentioned in the song as a sort of Molly Malone territory where they wouldn't know a pig's knuckle from a crubeen.

"Biddy Mulligan"

And as for Jimmy O'Dea himself. Not only was he one of the great theatre characters of his day, he was Conor's godfather, in the religious sense, that is.

Jimmy's best known character was Biddy Mulligan the Pride of the Coombe and the audience again rose to the occasion and the room resonated to the chorus of this signature tune.

A Josef Locke song - Goodbye!

And Josef Locke with his military type choruses.

He had a reputation as a ladies man and was a friend of CJH, as I remember.

Conor, under Jimmy's watchful eye

Conor clicked his way through a profusion of photos, movie clips and theatre programmes. All under the watchful eye of his godfather.

I can't not mention the Roman Catholic Church before we finish. It wasn't just the cinema and the dirty books that incurred their wrath.

Jack Doyle when he finished boxing became a singer but the Church objected to him appearing on stage in the Royal because he was living with a divorced woman. He left her and married the film star Movita in Westland Row Church (where I was baptised). They were then allowed appear on the Royal. Unfortunately the marriage did not last; they divorced and she then married Marlon Brando. Movita died only last year (12/2/2015) aged 98. Jack had died, a pauper, in 1978.

A mellow duet

As we drifted towards the end of the night, the singing took on a mellow tone ...

Conor joins in the singing

... and even Conor himself was infected and promptly launched his singing career in these magnificent surroundings.

Team Royal

The team, including the Lord Mayor, got standing ovations and rapturous rounds of applause and shoutings.

Conor and Jimmy

And then it was all over, and there was a quiet moment of reflection, with godfather and godson.

Jimmy O'Dea

This fine bust was commissioned by Jimmy O'Dea himself in response to one put up by that theatrical Mícheál Mac Liammóir. Jimmy made sure his pedestal was a few inches higher than Mícheál's. The busts were originally in the Gaiety.

The likeness to Jimmy is striking. You'd be waiting for it to open its mouth.

Jimmy and Fans

And before Conor puts Jimmy's head in a bag and heads off home with it, a short pause for a photo with some if its fans. The lady in the middle is the sister of a Royalette now living in San Francisco. So there.

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