Donnybrook Review Roundup

Jenny Powers (center)

Irish Rep’s revisal of the 1961 musical Donnybrook!, which was adapted from John Ford’s 1952 Oscar-winning film The Quiet Man (itself adapted by Frank S. Nugent from a 1933 Saturday Evening Post story by Maurice Walsh), has received mixed reviews but positive enough to extend the limited engagement by a month. For the record the creative team includes Robert E. McEnroe (book), Johnny Burke (lyrics, music), Charlotte Moore (adaptation, direction), John Bell (music direction), Barry McNabb (choreography), James Noone (sets), Linda Fisher, Leon Dobkowski (costumes), Brian Nason (lights), Zachary Williamson (sound), Robert-Charles Vallance (hair, wigs), and Sven Nelson (props). The cast includes James Barbour (Sean Enright), Samuel Cohen (Mikeen Flynn), Patrick Cummings Gavin), Terry Donnelly (Kathy Carey), Ted Koch (Will Danaher), Barbara Marineau (Birdy), Mary Mallen (Esme), Kern McFadden (Gilbane), Kevin McGuire (Toomey), Jenny Powers (Mary Kate Danaher), and David Silber (Father Finucane).

Joe Dziemianowicz (Daily News): The Irish Repertory Theatre’s enjoyable revival of Donnybrook! lands a couple punches. Considering the less-than-stellar material, that’s something. Robert E. McEnroe’s book boasts few laughs and more than a few stereotypes. The score by Johnny Burke is a meager porridge. But “He Makes Me Feel I’m Lovely” rings with plainspoken prettiness. … Songs are brought nicely to life with four musicians and a capable cast. … Especially good are Kathy Fitzgerald and Samuel Cohen, as a wealthy widow and wily matchmaker. Their chipper duet, “Dee-lightful Is the Word,” lives up to the title. Ditto James Noone’s spinning, shape-shifting set.

Brian Scott Lipton (Theater Mania): A “revisal” of the short-lived 1961 Broadway musical Donnybrook! is being given a spirited production by artistic director Charlotte Moore. But as engaging as these folks can be, especially in the hands of a talented cast led by James Barbour and Jenny Powers, there’s no denying that this musical adaptation of the beloved 1952 film The Quiet Man is far from a knockout. … Of course, some of what might make Donnybrook! feel more full-bodied simply can’t be accomplished here due to the small Irish Rep space. … But I’m not sure if bigger would make this quirky musical worth fighting for.

Marc Miller (Back Stage): The Irish Repertory Theatre … has revived an old second-rank musical that’s nevertheless fondly remembered by enthusiasts and meddled with it so much that what’s onstage is scarcely recognizable. … When you cut a book to its bare essentials or beyond, yes, you speed up the action to suit an attention deficit–prone modern audience, but you also eliminate the ballast of character points and natural stage rhythms that allow us to care about these people. … Fans of golden age musical comedy will probably find things to enjoy in this frantic evening, thanks mostly to the composer-lyricist. But they should be warned that what they’re seeing isn’t really Donnybrook!

Terry Teachout (Wall St. Journal): James Barbour … is a sterling-silver musical-comedy baritone, and Donnybrook! takes wing whenever he opens his mouth. … Ms. Moore has done no small amount of smart musical tinkering, dropping some of the weaker songs and interpolating two blue-chip Burke-Van Heusen ballads. … She’s also tightened up Robert E. McEnroe’s book, and though the results sometimes move too fast, … most of her cuts serve Donnybrook! well. … It’s possible, of course, that the show would work better in a bigger house, but I suspect that the warm, clarifying intimacy of Ms. Moore’s staging is an important part of what brings Donnybrook! to life.

Andy Webster (N.Y. Times): The weather looks fine on James Noone’s set for Donnybrook! … The same could be said of this revival. … That’s no small feat. … James Barbour and Jenny Powers have dignity and verve, and the musical plays up a delightful dalliance between the widowed local landowner (Kathy Fitzgerald) and Innisfree’s resident matchmaker (Samuel Cohen). Terry Donnelly and Barbara Marineau, as village hens, offer vivid, colorful support. Under Charlotte Moore’s crisp direction, the show manages another remarkable feat: looking past the story’s fists to uncover its heart.

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