Miami Showband sax player Des Lee was at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre today for the launch of The Miami Showband Story, a new musical about the iconic act once hailed as the Irish Beatles.
The group’s hay day was in the 60’s and 70’s where they entertained both Catholics and Protestants throughout all of Ireland. However, in 1975 tragedy befell the band as they were attacked by loyalist paramilitaries travelling home from a concert. Three members of the group were killed.
Written by Marie Jones (Stones in His Pockets) and Martin Lynch (Dancing Shoes – The George Best Story), the musical will deal with the killings of 1975. However, Lee told Travel Ireland Magazine that the show will put a greater emphasis on the joy the Miami Showband brought to audiences of the time.
“We didn’t want the play to be leaning heavily on the massacre,” said the sax player. “Instead, we wanted it to explore what the Miami Showband was all about – how successful they were and what they meant to their fans. They were heroes of the time. This is a show that will bring smiles, laughter, tears and joy. It’s got everything. I can envisage people hearing ‘Clap Your Hands, Stamp Your Feet’ and dancing in the isles.”
The synopsis for The Miami Showband Story reads: “Told through the eyes of best friends and song writing duo, Fran O’Toole and Des Lee, we witness their rise from Dublin and Belfast beat groups to the kind of fame and fortune any young musician could only dream of. But less than ten years later, the dream comes to a tragic end. When Fran is murdered at a bogus British Army road-check outside Newry, (along with fellow band mates Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty), Des’ life is thrown into meltdown.”
“Beset with survivor’s guilt, Des turns to alcohol and eventually leaves the country for South Africa. However, this doesn’t stop Fran’s ‘presence’ continuing to haunt him. It isn’t until 25 years later when a phone call from Ireland proposes a Miami reunion that the chance of redemption is offered to Des.”
Also present at the Gaiety Theatre was playwright Martin Lynch, who discussed how he felt when Lee approached him about writing the musical. “We all know the story. It’s one of the biggest of the Troubles. At first, I was apprehensive about tackling it but I got excited for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t know Miami Showband member Ray Millar was from Belfast. I had danced to them when was I was 17 or 18 and hadn’t known that. But that’s the way these guys were. It was music, music, music. They didn’t care who was what.”
“The other reason was that I had danced to the group in the 60’s and had loved all their music. So, I gave Marie Jones a call and we chatted about it. I discovered that she went to the same dance halls in Belfast, even though she’s from a Protestant background and I’m from a Catholic background. We agreed the musical was far too good an opportunity to miss and that all life was in that story. If we could capture that and put it on the stage, it would be fantastic.”
Two of the stars of the play were also in attendance at the launch. Actor Chris Mohan (playing former Miami singer Dickie Rock) spoke to Travel Ireland about why he thinks the story of The Miami Showband is particularly relevant now. The musical arrives just months after documentary Remastered: The Miami Showband Massacre premiered on Netflix.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn from that time to now. We’re at a very uncertain point in history. [With Brexit] we don’t know what’s going to be happening in the next couple years in this country. And we don’t know how people will react. It has serious potential to divide.”
“That’s why this show is so important. The Miami were never about division or violence despite what happened to them. These guys were about music, fun, entertainment and bringing communities together. We want to do that too and remind people what’s good about Ireland, the music that comes from here. We want people to feel unified.”
According to Mohan and co-star Aileen Mythen (playing Fran O’Toole’s and Des Lee’s mothers), the show will recreate the magic of the Miami Showband. The latter told Travel Ireland: “I think people are inclined to forget the former years when the group got together and the comedy and the fun that’s involved in that. The show really highlights this part of their story.”
Lee also stated that he and other living members of the Miami were involved in the musical, speaking to Jones and Lynch about their perspective on events. When asked why he wanted a musical about the Miami, the sax player replied: “Because of what happened to Fran, Brian and Tony and how I feel about that, I want to make sure that their names live on in history forever.”
For the full list of dates, venues and ticket prices to see The Miami Showband Story, see below.
NATIONWIDE TOUR DATES:
8 – 17 August – Grand Opera House, Belfast: £17.75 – £36.75 (additional charges may apply)
20 August – Market Place Theatre, Armagh: £26 – £28 (additional charges may apply)
22 – 24 August – Millennium Forum, Derry: £25 (additional charges may apply)
28 August – INEC, Killarney: €39.20 (additional charges may apply)
30 August – Royal Theatre, Castlebar: €34 (additional charges may apply)
2 September – Town Hall Theatre, Galway: €28 – €30 (additional charges may apply)
4 September – The TLT Theatre, Drogheda: €25 (additional charges may apply)
7 September – UCH, Limerick: €30 (additional charges may apply)
10 – 11 September – Theatre Royal, Waterford: €28 – €31 (additional charges may apply)
13 September – Solstice Arts Centre, Meath: see local venue for ticket details
16 – 21 September – The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin: From €20 (additional charges may apply)
Photos Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.