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Paulanne Simmons

"Donnybrook!" Is a Rowdy Irish Romance


Directed by Charlotte Moore
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22 Street
Opened Feb. 17, 2013
Wed. at 3pm & 8pm, Thurs. at 7pm, Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 3pm & 8pm, Sun. at 3pm
Tickets: $55 - $65 (212) 727-2737 or www.irishrep.org
Extended through April 28, 2013
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons April 11, 2013


L-R: David Sitler (Father Finucane), Jenny Powers (Mary Kate Danaher), Kathy Fitzgerald (Kathy Carey), Ted Koch (Will Danaher), James Barbour (Sean Enright). Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The Donnybrook Fair was an annual Irish event that often ended in public brawls. Eventually the word “donnybrook” came to refer to any public fight. It’s also the name of a musical, currently in revival at the Irish Repertory Theatre, directed by Charlotte Moore.

If Ireland makes you think of romance, songs and carousing with friends in a pub, you won’t be disappointed with the Irish Rep’s production of “Donnybrook!” The musical, with music and lyrics by Johnny Burke and a book by Robert E. McEnroe is based on the 1952 film “The Quiet Man” a romanic comedy directed by John Ford, which was based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story by Maurice Walsh.

L-R: Jenny Powers (Mary Kate Danaher) and James Barbour (Sean Enright). Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The musical ran for only sixty-eight performances. Maybe it was just too sweet and sentimental. The plot is a simple love story. Sean Enright (Michael Halling), an Irish-American ex-prize fighter who has come to Innisfree to lead a peaceful life falls in love with a local girl, Mary Kate Danaher (Jenny Powers), sister of the boisterous and bullying Will (Ted Koch).

At first Will refuses to give consent to the marriage (in those days that mattered) because Sean has outbid him for a piece of property he wanted. Then the town matchmaker, Mikeen Flynn ((Samuel Cohen), convinces him the wealthy widow Kathy Carey (Kathy Fitzgerald) will only marry him if Mary Kate is out of the house. All is well until Mikeen finds out about the ruse on Sean and Mary Kate’s wedding day.

L-R: Kathy Fitzgerald (Kathy Carey) and Samuel Cohen (Mikeen Flynn). Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In retaliation, Will refuses to give Mary Kate her dowry. Sean does not particularly mind. But Mary Kate insists that if Sean really loves her he will fight for her honor and the money. In other words they will have a donnybrook.

It is on this slim plot that many lovely songs hang: “When Is Sometime?” “The Loveable Irish,” “He Makes Me Feel I’m Lovely.” The score is performed with affection and care by the cast. The acting is quite good, with Fitzgerald a standout as the widow Carey, who is trying to get the Mikeen and not Will to marry her.

As always, Irish Rep makes the most out of its difficult stage. A turntable allows the audience to enter the local pub or Sean and Mary Kate’s new home. And all around is the beautiful Irish countryside.

“Donnybrook!” is a small-scale musical perfect for Irish Rep’s intimate venue. If we know from the very beginning that love will triumph and enemies will become friends, it is nonetheless quite enjoyable watching how we arrive at this happy ending.


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