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Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Stage set for world's 'largest' musical
By Fiona Murray
BBC News Online

A musical billed as the "biggest theatrical show in the world" is about to take to the stage in Belfast.

The Ulster-Scots epic, On Eagle's Wing, has a distinctly international flavour with a 100-strong cast and crew, as well as a choir of 300 and an orchestra.
Peter Corry and Alyth McCormack have the lead roles
Peter Corry and Alyth McCormack have the lead roles

Featuring West End star Peter Corry and Scotland's Alyth McCormack, the musical traces the journey of the Scots-Irish to the US and examines their influence on American music and culture.

More than 400 costumes will be worn during the show which is set on a three-storey, 4,800 sq ft stage, using one of the largest light sets ever constructed.

The show's world premiere was due to have been staged in Atlanta, Georgia, earlier this month, but it was cancelled due to problems with finances.

It will now open at the Odyssey in Belfast on Friday.

The musical's chief executive, Ian Kennedy, said they had been "desperately disappointed" at what had happened, but remain confident they will return to America next year.

"Money which had been committed to the project in the USA failed to materialise, despite signed contracts," he told BBC News Online.

"However, we are delighted that the world premiere for the show will take place in Belfast, the natural home of the story of the Scots-Irish.

"This is the biggest theatrical show in the world - at this moment - and is a truly amazing show set in historical Scotland, Ulster and America and finishing with a spectacular celebration of all three in the present day."

The show is set to be ablaze with colour, dance and song
The show is set to be ablaze with colour, dance and song
He said the cast were really exicted about the premiere, after receiving a rapturous reception from a crowd of 1,700 at Thursday night's dress rehearsal.

"At the climax of the show, all the people jumped to their feet and cheered. We all realised that we had created a very special show here. People said they didn't realise it was going to be so big, so spectacular."

Belfast-born Corry is the central character in the show. As the narrator, he manipulates the characters on stage, taking on various guises including American President Andrew Jackson.

The humour of the Scots-Irish is represented by George Jones of BBC Northern Ireland, supported by BJ Hogg of the BBC's Give My Head Peace show.

Song, dance and comedy feature in the story which organisers say "will touch every mothers heart".

Thirty singers from America have travelled to take part in the choir.

'Long life'

Mr Kennedy said it was apt that the premiere was now being held in Belfast, as most of the crew have links to Northern Ireland.

However, there are plans to take the show on a tour of more than 30 US cities, as well as across Europe and Asia.

"We are hoping to bring in professional promoters once we have finished the Belfast show and created the TV version of it", he said. "Then we can start to plan tours."

"Promoters from Asia and America are coming to see the show at the Odyssey so I am hoping the next two to three weeks will see us negotiate some very exciting deals."

The show runs in Belfast from 28 to 29 May from 1930 BST.

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