Romantic Ireland’s Dead and Gone?

Posted by on September 19, 2013

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On September 21 at the Shubert Theater, there’ll be excerpts from a musical theater piece originally staged in 2010 at the Abbey Theater in Ireland. It’s a song cycle based on the works of William Butler Yeats, the legendary poet and playwright who happened to co-found the Abbey.

Plus they’ll do “Fisherman’s Blues.”

It’s a Waterboys concert. Many fans of Mike Scott’s band may be unaware that the acclaimed new album An Appointment with Mr. Yeats began as a theater piece, with a lead actor (Michael Harding) and special guest musicians.  The show played Dublin again a few months later, and then Barbican Hall in London. (That’s the concert hall part of the Barbican Centre, not the theater part. But still.)

The album version of An Appointment with Mr. Yeats was released in the fall of 2011.  Most of the reviews don’t really delve into the songs’ theatrical or literary qualities. There’s a Mike Scott interview in PopMatters where he describes the Abbey Theatre concerts, here.

Nearly all the songs’ lyrics are taken from Yeats’ poems, but “Let the Earth Bear Witness” contains lines from the 1902 one-act Cathleen ni Houlihan, and there are apparently a few other quotes from Yeats plays.

Not that the Waterboys’ Shubert show, despite the venue’s own rich dramatic history, will seem much more playlike than a typical theater pop concert. And not that Scott and the Waterboys are heading in a more scriptlike direction: the next Waterboys turn may be nostalgic, with the fall release of a box set feting the band’s classic Fisherman’s Blues album. The next new album appears to be made up of songs Scott wrote himself. Yeats, for his part, died in 1939. But Irish theater scholars can happily join the ranks of pop fans Saturday for a show celebrating a major dramatist and poet at a landmark New Haven theater.

The Waterboys play Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Shubert Theater, 247 College Street, New Haven. Tickets are $35-$45. www.shubert.com

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