(Chris Hill Photographic)
Sunday 13 January 2008 and only a few weeks before Rachels 'I'd Do Anything' audition in London; marked the end of an amazing era at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. The current Ridgeway Street building went out in style with Glinda’s Glitter Ball - a £100 per seat gala performance of The Wizard of Oz which featured as the munchkin chorus, local celebrities including Dan Gordon, Brian Kennedy, Hollyoaks Gerard McCarthy, Olivia Nash and Nuala McKeever and of course, soon to be local celebrity; Rachel Tucker as Dorothy!
I was so proud to be given the role of Glinda in the last cast in the last ever production at the Lyric Theatre and especially honoured and delighted to have shared this experience with seasoned professionals and friends like Rachel in a superbly talented cast.
The show was so much fun and Rachel held the whole production together. If you think you saw Rachel come across with enthusiasm and energy during her live performances in 'I'd Do Anything' you didn't see the half of it. Rachel barely had a chance to sit down during the show as she was required for every scene but one; and still she had time for a warming smile for a munchkin and a quick giggle shared backstage with other cast members. This girl has some stamina and would almost put any athlete to shame... and still the voice reaches the back of the auditorium clear and strong !
I digress... the highlights of the Gala performance were the moment when James Nesbitt jumped out of a cage in the haunted forest and kidnapped Dorothy. I watched from the wings as Rachel shouted "thats not a bird... its Jimmy Nesbitt" face glowing, a naughty little grin as the audience roar with enthusiasm and delight as his appearance was a surprise to all...then quickly back into character. The next scene Rachel as Dorothy is trapped in the witches castle frightened and alone. As she sings the reprise of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' a voice is heard in the distance and local singer Brian Kennedy joins her in a beautiful duet comforting Dorothy until her three friends arrive to save her.
The icing on the cake for the packed audience and for the cast and crew was a suprise visit to the theatre by Liam Neeson (Patron) who proceeded to take his first steps onto the Lyric stage in over thirty years. After the final curtain call, Liam walked on to a standing ovation and told an enthralled audience, “this is the end, and the beginning,” referring to the plans to demolish and rebuild Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre.
Rachel and I were in the wings, starry eyed; watching this in amazement. We could not believe we were actually sharing a stage with a Hollywood superstar and a true local hero.
The show ended with a bang and the stage filled with audience members getting their photo's taken with celebs galore. We nearly had kittens when Liam knocked on the dressing room door to congratulate us on a show well done... "oh my, he's tall" Rachel and I were totally dwarfed and completely dumb struck. He was so down to earth and generous with his praise. It was hard to say anything through our cheesy grins except; "thankyou he he heeee". Liam then spent another five hours at the aftershow party talking to cast members individually, complimenting on their performances and sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience. Of course Rachel is no stranger to the red carpet now herself...she met George Clooney!!!! how jealous was I... yummy.
We headed back to our dressing rooms and Rachel cracked open a bottle of pink sparkling rose she had been given. We shared a glass with Jimmy Nesbitt and started to get ready for Glinda's Glitter Ball... we figured we'd better have a drink in the dressing rooms as we were sure the champagne would have been finished off by the time the girlies had beautified themselves.
Off we went to party and the rest is history...
Hope you enjoy the backstage pics!
Rachel and Co perform the Gala show .... meets Liam Neeson on stage and back Jimmy Nesbitt and sings a duo with Brian Kennedy. exclusive backstage pics!