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Copper Face Jacks: The Musical Returns Tomorrow Night

Copper Face Jacks: The Musical is returning for a second run in the Olympia Theatre, following sell out shows and rave reviews in 2018. However, according to writer Paul Howard (Ross O’Carroll Kelly creator, Anglo The Musical), the inspiration for it came from a throwaway joke.

Speaking to Travel Ireland, the playwright says: “When we did Anglo the Musical, we got in so much legal trouble. The DPP was trying to close us down for contempt of court. We thought we were going to lose our houses and all sorts. My co-creator Darren Smith turned to me one day and said: “We should have made Coppers The Musical.”

Continuing Howard notes: “I have this theory that all musicals start off as a joke. Take Evita – people must have been saying there’s no way you could make Argentina in the time of Juan Peron into a musical that people want to see. I’m sure Andrew Lloyd Webber said: ‘I bet I could’.”

Also speaking to Travel Ireland, Johnny Ward describes the plot of the musical. “I play Gino, captain of the Dublin GAA football team. When he’s not doing that, he works as a clamper. He goes around illegally clamping people who don’t have a Dublin registration. He meets Noeleen (Roseanna Purcell) from Kerry, pursuing her dream of working in the claims department of the VHI. They meet and fall in love, a week before the all-Ireland final between Dublin and Kerry.”

While the show may have started off as a joke, both Howard and Ward are very sincere in their love of the famed Dublin club. “I’ve such an emotional attachment to Coppers,” says the writer. “I spent a lot of my twenties in there – every Friday and far too many Saturdays after finishing on the sports desk at The Tribune. I never had a bad night there ever. And I was there 300 and 400 times.”

Howard admits his latest show has been easier to bring to the stage than Anglo the Musical. That said, he states he felt a strong obligation to honour a venue so close to many’s hearts: “I wanted people to come to the show and recognise it as their Coppers, that it had to be exactly like what a night in the club is – full of catchy tunes, bad chat-up lines and loads of laughter.”

“Like our female lead character Noeleen, a lot of people come to Dublin from the country and they don’t know many people. Coppers is almost like a culchie embassy for those people. It’s a social outlet. A lot of what happens there is very ‘down-home’. With all those air guitar ballads and the casual dress code, it doesn’t take itself to seriously.”

Ward agrees: “The musical is a bit OTT, a bit Father Ted. But stuff like this actually happens. Copper Face Jacks is the one place when I was a teenager, I never worried about getting into – especially when I was in a GAA jersey.”

According to Howard, his show sparked nostalgia for many of those who saw it in its original run. “I met a lot of married couples after performances. They stopped me to say they had met in Coppers. Some said they brought their teenage kids to show them how they used to party when they were younger.”

Meanwhile Ward says there’s also been audience members with no knowledge of Coppers who still loved the show: “We’ve had American crowds in. They said: ‘Wow I just love the accents and the jerseys’. They had no clue what Copper Face Jacks was before. But my God did they go there after.”

Copper Face Jacks: The Musical opens tomorrow July 11 at the Olympia, following a preview July 10. It runs until August 10.

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