As the curtain came up just after 8pm in the Lime Tree Theatre, Malachy McCourt’s eyes were glued to the stage but his thoughts were in another time and place, with his brother Frank. creator of Angelas Ashes.
It would have been 3pm back home in New York.
Frank McCourt died a few minutes after 3pm on July 19 in Manhattan – exactly four years to the day and the minute that a musical of his life took to the stage in Limerick. Here they were – at the opening night of an extravaganza about the miserable Irish childhood that made him famous. It was lucky that Frank loved irony, he intimated, because it seemed to find him at every hand’s turn.
The McCourt legacy lives on, but here it was tinged with sadness that the creator wasn’t present to see the latest inspiration of his work, which keeps on giving after 17 years. “I do miss him and I missed him a lot last night,” said Malachy the next day.
On stage in conversation with his brother Alphie, Frank’s widow Ellen, and New York based theatre director George C. Heslin, for the first time, larger-than-life Malachy was short for words. He playfully dismissed his tears saying “my bladder is near my eye”.
“It’s not many people that would have the privilege of Frank McCourt as a brother and a friend. I’m immensely grateful for that. He was a great friend and always will be.”
Ellen, Alphie and Malachy were of course here to see Angela’s Ashes: A Musical, as were many fans from London and Florida. After receiving great praise in Derby, where it was staged last year by a local theatre company, this was its first showing in Limerick.