Arts & Culture

Melodrama 'The Shaughraun' captures magic of rural Ireland

Joel White plays amiable rogue Conn O'Kelley in the Great American Melodrama's production of 'The Shaughraun.'
Joel White plays amiable rogue Conn O'Kelley in the Great American Melodrama's production of 'The Shaughraun.'

A classic “hero versus villain” story meets the Irish countryside in “The Shaughraun,” the latest production at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano.

Written by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault, “The Shaughraun” — the title means “wanderer” in Gaelic — was first performed in New York in 1874.

This traditional melodrama, set in the green hills of Ireland, includes a damsel in distress, a crooked villain, a lovable sidekick and a handsome hero. Be prepared for a rollicking good time filled with romance, betrayal and plot twists.

As the story begins, Robert Ffolliott (Chase Byrd) has returned to Ireland after escaping imprisonment for being a rebel.

In the opening scene, we meet Captain Molineux (Andy Pollock), an English officer searching for Robert.

However, he first encounters Robert’s sister, the spirited Claire Ffolliott (Christine Arnold), and falls in love with her.

Claire is torn between her love for the Captain and her loyalty to her brother. Molineux, meanwhile, provides comic relief with his constant lack of understanding of the Irish culture.

We soon learn that Robert was falsely accused and is trying to reunite with his love, Arte O’Neal (Emily Christine Smith). It seems that the conniving Corry Kinchela (Philip David Black) has framed Robert with the intent of forcing Arte into marriage.

Corry is also hunting Robert with the help of his informant, Harvey Duff (Noah Kaplan). Throughout the play, Robert escapes a variety of melodramatic mishaps, aided by his shrewd sidekick, Conn O’Kelly, the shaughraun of the title.

An amiable rogue trying to save his master and the beautiful heroine from an evil villain, Conn is played with great feistiness and enthusiasm by Joel White.

Two additional characters support the cast with amusing sermons and sticky situations. The animated Father Dolan (Jared Dawson) tries to lead Conn down a more straight and narrow path without much luck. The distraught Mrs. O’Kelly, played by Hayley Galbraith with impeccable comic timing, is Conn’s mother.

Although it may be difficult to follow the Irish accents at times, the outstanding cast, costumes, lighting and set design fill “The Shaughraun” with the magic and folklore of rural Ireland. Suzy Newman directs the play.

Following “The Shaughraun” is the hilarious vaudeville revue “Life’s a Beach.” It is directed by Eric Hoit with musical arrangements by Kevin Lawson and choreography by Zach Johnson and Hoit.

This delightful collection of musical vignettes filled with spoofs and medleys of classic summer songs will keep you laughing.

Here, the same Melodrama actors shine even more brightly with Galbraith leading the way. Her comedic style is both refreshing and bold.

You will leave the theater wanting more.

It has been awhile since I attended a show at the Great American Melodrama and I had forgotten how much fun it is. The festive mood begins when you are greeted and escorted to your seats by the costumed actors.

Even the drinks and snacks provided before the show and during the intermissions are served with a side of merriment as you are serenaded by the cast.

Adding to the fun, the audience is strongly encouraged to boo at the villain and cheer for the good guys throughout the performance with the help of musical underscoring by Kevin Lawson.

Performances of “The Shaughraun” alternate with the Western spoof “Song of the Canyon Kid,” which runs through Sept. 20.

With a little luck of the Irish, you’ll get yourself over to the Melodrama and enjoy a great summer pastime.

If you go

"The Shaughraun"

7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday; through Sept. 21

Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, 1863 Front St., Highway 1, Oceano 

$18 to $24

489-2499 or