WWN Review: Gay Byrne The Musical

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SIMPLY put, it’s a knockout. The boards of the Olympia Theatre in the Nation’s capital were tread by the finest Irish performers money can buy and boy did it show.

We critics knew we were in for something special when plans for the musical were announced early last year, but all expectations were surpassed by Gaybo, who penned the musical himself, and his dedicated and willing cast.

The musical began in the ‘first age of Gaybo’ all smiles and knitted jumpers, this early incarnation of the venerable host was played by Domhnall Gleeson with such enthusiasm and aplomb that I was transported back to the idyllic time when the whole family gathered around the TV to watch the host with the most.

Sadly, Michael Fassbender as 90s Gaybo is a misstep. Gladly it is the only one during the show’s 90 minute duration, but the choice to have the thespian deliver all his lines naked was a mistake.

Fassbender did, however deliver the musical’s standout tune ‘Kenny the Bastard, the Bastard Kenny’ with an assured baritone. While the lyrics are simple (Kenny the bastard, the bastard Kenny) I think Gaybo has made his feelings for his Late Late successor truly known now.

The show had laughs, of course, but it excelled when it embraced moments of extreme tension. The costume designers lovingly recreated Annie Murphy’s outfit complete with leather chaps, whip and devil horns, really making the audience feel like they were reliving the moment when the woman who embarked on an affair with Bishop Eamonn Casey wrongly challenged our hero on the Late Late set.

Reese Witherspoon, the only non-Irish cast member, brings a madness to the vixen which fully exonerates Bishop Casey.

There’s just enough room in the show for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and that Stephen Fry interview, in which the famously verbose Englishman punched Gaybo in the face before spitting on him.

The best was saved for last as Gaybo, played by Michael Gambon in the closing scenes is elevated up into the rafters of the Olympia as the clouds part and a booming heavenly voice is heard to say ‘fancy taking over for a bit up here old pal’.

Magical! 6 out of 5 stars.

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