“Charlie’s Angels” Star At City Hall Extravanganza

AMONG the stars, who entertained the multitude outside Newry City Hall in June 2002, was legendary showman, Charlie Smyth, - 60 years on stage, - and his attractive Pantomime Girls.

This former Chairman of Newry and Mourne District Council had double cause for celebration, with the good news about Daisyhill Hospital, having long campaigned against its down-grading, especially while wearing the chain-of-office.

And it is appropriate that Charlie’s portrait should hang in the Board-room of the City Hall, outside which he and his team performed, for within its walls he has starred in numerous plays, operettas, concerts and pantomimes.

Comedian, actor, singer, compeer, producer, - and a fine footballer to boot, - Charlie Smyth’s talents have been utilised by the Newpoint Players, Newry Musical Society, Cloghogue Players, Glenn Drama Society, Top Talent and Top Town Contests, as well as countless pantomimes, all for good causes.

The curtain swings back to 1941, when this seven-year-old pupil at the Abbey CBS appeared in a school play. And fast forward to 1947 at the Bosco Boys Club, when the fair-haired prodigy played the leading role in “Oliver Twist,” for which he won the Individual Award at Newry Musical Feis.

Behind the scenes was the personality, who spotted and nurtured the budding talent, Sean Canavan (RIP). They later co-operated in countless shows and pantomimes, being known as “Newry’s Morecambe and Wise.”

As a boy soprano at the local Dominican Church, young Smyth won a host of medals at various festivals. And when his voice broke, he joined the Newry Musical and Orchestral Society, giving full rein to his flair for comedy.

Charlie’s debut performance in “The Maid of the Mountains,” in which he was a foil for Ethel Fitzpatrick, was a resounding success, setting the local theatrical world alight with the sparkling contrast of their personalities, droll and satirical. The principals also included Nuala Neary, Wesley Livingstone, Raymond and Irene McCourt, George McKee, Margaret Nolan, Paula McEvoy, Jim and Brendan Carroll.

The chorus included Mary and Margot Carroll, Sally McManus, May Rooney, Kathleen Delahunt, Sadie Fearon, Bridie McKeown, Mona Kelly, Lily McCann, Mary Turley, Noreen Keenan, Bridie Carr, Lucy McDonnell, Anne Preston, along with Colm McAteer, Sean Coulter, Jim Smyth, Paschal Kearney, Noel McKevitt, John Finnerty, Dominic McGivern, Padraig O’Donnell, Raymond McAllister, Pat Devine and Mick O’Loughlin.

Revelling in a variety of comedy roles, he has starred in numerous productions over the years, such as “The Merry Widow,” “Show-boat,” “The Desert Song,” “The Mikado,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Twice he won the award for “Best Comedian” at the International Festival of Light Opera at Waterford; and he also guested for Lurgan Operatic Society.

In describing a memorable show in 1959, I wrote: “The bubbling gaiety and charm of `The Merry Widow` has captivated the people of the Newry area, who revelled in the golden voice of Nuala Neary, the attractive, colourful dance routines, and the lilting chorus. The show rolls merrily along with comical mishaps involving ace-comedian, Charlie Smyth, who never ceases to squeeze the last ounce of fun from every scene by gesture or accent.”

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© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008