Sunday, June 16, 2024


THE Newcastle Glees are looking forward to the biggest celebration in Irish musical theatre, as they head to the AIMS (the Association of Irish Musical Societies) awards in Killarney, where they have been nominated for two gongs.

The entire company has been shortlisted in the ‘Gilbert’ Best Show category for their performance of ‘Made in Dagenham’ last year, while Katy Keaveney is up for best comedienne. Allen Gordon was one of the two leads in ‘Made in Dagenham’, and he is also on the Glees committee. He played the role of Eddie McGrady, the husband whose life changed when his wife, Rita O’Grady, led the female employees on strike action at the Ford factory in the English town of Dagenham.

Ahead of the awards weekend, Allen said: “The best show award is an incredible accolade. “There are two sections. Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert is incredibly tough. You are up against some of the top amateur musical theatre societies in the whole country and for the Glees to be a part of that, from a small corner of Northern Ireland, is just incredible. “To be recognised for the show we put on is absolutely insane. “For us to win would be absolutely phenomenal.

It makes the months of hard work all worthwhile.” Orla Russell played the part of Rita O’Grady in the ‘Made in Dagenham’ show. Her character is an overlooked housewife who turned into a focal point for a social movement. Orla explained how it felt when they heard the news that the Glees had been nominated for two awards. “It is unbelievable to get nominated for best show in the Gilbert section,” she said. “When we heard about it we were actually at rehearsals in the Annesley Hall for Spelling Bee (tickets on sale now). “We knew the nominations were being announced. “We weren’t sitting watching them as we would normally. “But we were constantly looking at our phones. “I actually got a message from my husband Sean, telling me that we got Katy Keaveney’s individual nomination. The place went mad. “She got a video from a group in St Agnes’s Choral Society, who were cheering us on when we got nominated as best show.” Katy Keaveney played the part of Clare in ‘Made in Dagenham’, a simple character who laughs at the rude jokes but struggles to find the right words to express herself. Katy – who had returned from studying an acting degree in Wales before re-joining the Glees – has no difficulty expressing what being nominated means to her. “I was so surprised when Orla Russell turned to me and whispered that I had been given the nomination for best comedienne,” she said. “I was so delighted and there were a few surprised but happy tears. “Ultimately the awards aren’t the be all and end all. It is brilliant for the company to be recognised and the feedback for ‘Made in Dagenham’ was incredible from our adjudicators. I think it sparked a renewed love of musical theatre for me. “Covid messed with a whole year of my training as an actress. But I feel honoured to get a nomination the first year I came back to the Glees.” There are a large group of the Glees travelling to Killarney on the weekend of 16 to 18 June.

The weekend is really a social get-together for musical societies from across Ireland. They are as much about getting together with friends as they are about honouring the brightest and the best. Allen Gordon said: “It is about people who love music theatre, just getting together and having a great weekend. “The Friday is just about good fun. There is a theme that night which is to come in fancy dress. “On Saturday there is a group barbecue, and an MC who comperes, and we play games on the terrace of the hotel. “Hopefully we get the good weather. Saturday night is everyone in their glad rags and we do the award ceremony over a fantastic dinner in the hotel, the Gleneagles in Killarney.”

Orla said that being part of the awards is a great vindication of the Glees and its work. “We are just ecstatic as a group and we can’t wait to go down to Killarney,” she said. “We have everything crossed that we will do well. “To even get the nomination and to be in the top five shows all over Ireland for the full year is just incredible. “To think that a wee show put on in the Annesley Hall could do that. It shows Newcastle Glees are not to be messed with! “They are a great bunch of people to work with.” Katy said much the same, and she emphasised that the group deserves all the credit it gets. “I am so lucky to have got so much support from such brilliantly real and genuine and kind people from the company, who just love making a fool of themselves on stage, just like me.” And Allen said that any recognition of all the hard work that the team puts in is an honour. “Speaking as a member of the Newcastle Glees committee we would be so incredibly proud of the entire production, from the production team, to the cast, to back stage, to props, to costume, to music, to the band and to the ensemble on stage. “To every single person that it takes to put that show on, I know that we are forever grateful and thankful for the work that was put in. “We would be incredibly proud if we won it, but winning isn’t the be all and end all. “We know that ‘Made in Dagenham’ was a success and it was a phenomenal show. “It would be lovely to get that recognition but to even be nominated for overall show is an incredible achievement. “We are just delighted.”

On the night of Saturday the 17th of June they will find out if they have won either award, but there is another surprise to wait for, and that is what the Glees’ fancy dress outfits will be. Allen said: “We have got our costumes organised, but I can’t say what we are going as, as it is top secret. The Glees always go all out and we have a good look for Kilarney!”

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