Belfast and Broadway – Lyric opens two shows either side of the Atlantic simultaneously

Two shows, two continents, one night – the Lyric Theatre is putting Northern Ireland theatre on the map by opening two very different productions on either side of the Atlantic on 5 Sept.

Jane Austen and Brendan Behan are the unlikeliest of bedfellows, yet they both feature in the Lyric’s autumn feast of theatre in Belfast and New York.

The Lyric’s acclaimed comedy drama Brendan At The Chelsea, directed by and starring Adrian Dunbar, opens off-Broadway tonight where it will play for five weeks.

It is fitting that this witty drama about the notorious Irish writer, Brendan Behan and written by his niece, Janet Behan, should go to the Big Apple as the play is set in the legendary New York bohemian hub, The Chelsea Hotel.

Back home in Belfast, a new musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s best-loved novel, Pride and Prejudice – the Musical opens tonight (5 September) and runs until 6 October.

Ciaran McAuley, Lyric Chief Executive said: “The fact we are opening two shows on the same night on either side of the Atlantic reflects the ambition of the Lyric Theatre. We have always wanted to bring the very best of Northern Ireland theatre to both shores. We are delighted to be able to take Brendan At The Chelsea on tour after it was a huge hit at the Lyric in 2011. We also hope that our new musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice goes down as well in Belfast as it did in Cork over the summer.”

Brendan At The Chelsea is running at the Acorn Theatre, West 42nd Street and then comes home to Belfast for a limited run on the Danske Bank Stage at the Lyric from 30 October to 10 November, before touring to Dublin and Londonderry. The tour is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the British Council, Culture Ireland, NI Bureau, NI Connections and Tourism Ireland.

Aubrey Irwin, Tourism Ireland, said: “This is a great way to highlight Northern Ireland talent in New York and show the creativity and home-grown enthusiasm for the arts scene in Northern Ireland. By supporting this programme, Tourism Ireland is helping to showcase the cultural richness that makes a visit here memorable and increase the number of overseas visitors.”

Noírín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “As principal funder of the Lyric Theatre, we are delighted to be able to support their production of Brendan at the Chelsea in touring to New York. This play about legendary Irish writer Brendan Behan and starring Adrian Dunbar, one of Northern Ireland’s leading stage and screen actors, aptly represents the international calibre of our theatre and is a must-see for one and all.”

Richard Croxford, the Lyric’s Artistic Director said: “We are delighted to have one of Ireland’s finest actors, Adrian Dunbar, reprising his role as Brendan Behan in a production that packed out the Naughton Studio at the Lyric when we first opened two years ago. It will undoubtedly attract large audiences in New York and we are grateful to our generous supporters who are making this tour possible.”

Richard Croxford has directed Pride and Prejudice – the Musical which has been timed to celebrate the 200thanniversary of Jane Austen’s best-loved novel.

The two romantic leads are Hazel Gardner as Lizzie (The Sound of Music) and Neil McDermott, best known as Ryan Malloy from Eastenders, who plays the swoonsome Mr Darcy.

“With set and costume designer Robin Peoples and local composer Mark Dougherty on board, this will be both a visual and musical treat,” said Richard.

Pride and Prejudice – the Musical runs on the Danske Bank Stage, at the Lyric from 5 September to 6 October. Tickets from £10 – £24.50.