The leading lady in the St. Mel’s Musical Society production of Cabaret is Longford town native Miriam O’Reilly. At just 25 years of age, Miriam is a musical veteran in Longford town.
She first played the part of Tuptim with the Society 10 years ago in The King and I and was nominated for the AIMS Best Newcomer Award after her outstanding performance at the time. She was a member of the chorus in last year’s production of Guys and Dolls and is back on stage in Cabaret playing the role of Sally Bowles, an American singer with big dreams, endeavouring to reach the top by working in a sleazy gentleman’s club in Berlin - The Kit Kat Klub - to make ends meet.
“The role is very challenging,” she explained. “The character is complex and also the musical is not a typical light-hearted affair, but rather one of darkness, bringing to life a deeply troubling and devastating time in European history.”
For Miriam, the role of Sally Bowles has proved challenging, but she has drawn on her life experience to bring this complex, ambitious and eccentric character to life.
“Yes, the musical is dark, but it is not without a lot of hidden messages and I really want to do the character of Sally justice, play her properly and not offend. She has lots of dialogue and plenty of songs, but what she really represents is the people who at that time refused to accept that terrible things were happening and just completely went into denial, focussing on their own pleasures and ambitions. Sally is hyper, eccentric and loves performing.”
After spending five years at Scoil Mhuire, Secondary School, Longford Miriam went to University in Limerick where she studied Law and Spanish. In the nine years or so since she has been living away from Longford, her job has taken her all over the world and brought her in contact with the most wonderful people, an experience which she said has enabled her to understand better Sally’s character.
“Sally is very scattered, she is only in her late teens, early 20s and so while she has ambitions and wants to marry and have kids, she is struggling with getting to where she wants to be,” Miriam explained. “I have travelled a lot with my job over the past few years and met so many wonderful people on my travels. I have been able to draw on that experience with regard to Sally’s character and can relate better to her as a result of that.”
The 1966 Broadway production of Cabaret became a hit and spawned a 1972 film starring Liza Minnelli. The musical is set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany and the impending outbreak of World War 11. Set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, it focuses on night life at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and revolves around the 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with American writer Cliff Bradshaw (played by Jim Davey in the Longford production).
Throughout this dark but highly entertaining show, superb musical numbers are also featured and Sally’s character personifies the denial and fear that gripped millions of people at the onset of the World War 11.
While depicting Sally’s character will surely be an exciting personal challenge for Miriam, she is quick to pay tribute to the team behind the musical, especially Director Leonard Anderson, her co-star Maureen Dunne and Musical Director Fintan Farrelly.
“The commitment from all those people is unbelievable, and I just would not have been able to bring Sally’s character to life without their help, so thank you so much to all of them,” she said.