THE sounds of screams and laughter will echo through the Lime Tree Theatre just after Christmas, as the Limerick Panto Society takes centre stage with its production of Aladdin.
Bringing fun and high quality musical entertainment to the stage over the last 33 years, this year will be poignant as the long-running society mourns the loss of good friend and colleague John Finn.
Mr Finn, who has been described as a “theatre stalwart”, was one of the founding members of the society in Limerick, so it comes as no surprise that the loss of such an important member of the team has been a blow to his colleagues.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader director and co-founder Tony Cusack said: “This year is tinged with sadness because we have lost one of our founding members, John Finn, who passed away in September.
“He would have been quite well known in the theatrical world and in local amateur drama groups, so we are dedicating the panto this year to him,” he said.
Tony believes that John will be very much with them in spirit in Aladdin, as this year’s script was written by the much-loved playwright.
“It is his script we are using which we have modified a small bit but basically it is John’s core script,” he explained.
Looking ahead, Tony said the panto is set to be lively and full of fun while keeping within the “fundamental parts of the panto formula”, and keeping the tradition alive. The panto kicks off just after Christmas.
“While it has changed in terms of technology over the years, it hasn’t changed in the fundamental things like the script and interaction with children. I suppose it comes as a shock to a lot of children when they come in first because they are used to being in front of the TV, which doesn’t really react to them, so that interaction is fundamental,” said the director.
Tony explains that songs from the animation movie Sing will feature in this year’s panto while many of the usual numbers from Disney will also be making an appearance alongside chart-toppers singles from Pink and Ella Eyre.
“I always compare producing a panto to mixing a Christmas cake, you put all the ingredients in and you hope it will all come together for you, while saying a prayer,” he laughed.
Tony believes that Limerick is at the heart of what the society does best by keeping the cast local and embracing new talent like Stuart Mackey, a talented young actor, who will take to the boards as the evil Abanazar, acting alongside former RTE presenter Emma O’Driscoll and Paul Fitzgerald – aka Street Boy from 95fm – to name just a few.
“Obviously you have an influx of people each year so we have our own what we call panto chorus which is 40 regulars including 30 young ladies and 10 young men ranging from the ages of 16 up to 25 and they do all the singing and dancing and then you have the turnover of people in terms of the cast over the years,” he says.
“We bring in various guest artists like Emma O’Driscoll this year and we always have other people over the years like Martin King from TV3 and Richie Kavanagh played the Genie one night and we had Geri May from RTE in the show and we have had local well-known people involved as well,” said the director.
Every year the society has run shows in aid of the charity and according to Tony, this year is no different.
“This year’s charity show is for the Limerick School for the Deaf and it will be a signed show which will be nice,” he said.
“There’s something for everyone in the audience, the booking has been extraordinary this year,” he adds of Aladdin, which is the society’s 33rd annual production.
“We are an amateur organisation working in a professional environment and it’s the very essence of what a live show should be,” concluded the director.
Aladdin will be staged at the Lime Tree from December 28 to January 7, 2018.
Tickets can be purchased from Lime Tree Theater Box office on 061 953 400 or at www.limetreetheatre.ie.