Cherish the Ladies: A Celtic Classic

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Wednesday June 17, 2009
June 5, 2009
Christine G.K. LaPado

My friend, local Irish dance teacher Maria Oliver, whispered to me at one point during last Thursday’s show of world-renowned Irish-American musical group Cherish the Ladies, ‘She’s very much like Rosie O’Donnell.’

Minutes later, Joannie Madden, the jovial bandleader, good-naturedly announced to the audience, ‘Many of you think I’m Rosie O’Donnell.’

Madden’s funny, coincidental comment was one of many entertaining moments during Chico Performances’ well-attended, 2 1/2-hour-long production. Madden showed an impressive ability to entertainingly emcee while singing back-up and playing her flute and assorted pennywhistles for her talented group’“featuring fellow New Yorker Mary Coogan on guitar; Belfast fiddler Roisin Dillon; accordionist Mirella Murray, from Connemara, Ireland; Scottish pianist Kathleen Boyle, and Irish vocalist Michelle Burke.

From their opening ‘Road to Boffin’ to the brisk instrumental encore that got them their second standing ovation of the night, the Ladies put on a hell of a fine performance.

Burke, the newest member of the group, appeared on stage only at select times, singing what quickly came to be understood as her specialty’“slow, sad, love songs. Wearing a short, black, long-sleeved dress; iridescent, silver cowboy boots and a softly punkish, dyed-red-and-blonde haircut, Burke delivered poignant vocals tinged with her captivating Irish accent. ‘Go on and leave me,’ she sang, accompanied by Madden’s beautiful flute, ‘Go and leave’“Oy don’t moynd.’

‘They used to cost a penny,’ said Madden, at one point, holding up a pennywhistle she had taken from her bag of whistles in all keys and sizes. ‘This one cost $1,700.’

That stated, Madden launched into a slow, pretty, whistle tune she had written, called ‘The Waves of Kilkee.’

Two accompanying male dancers, Joe Dwyer and Dan Stacey, pulled Madden and Boyle to the fore for a brisk round of foursome dancing during the Ladies’ encore, after which Madden got on the mic and said succinctly to the audience, ‘Bless you. Go home.’