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INDEPENDENCE The source of Celtic Nights: Spirit of Freedom may centre on a specific event, but its themes – freedom, democracy, and civil rights – are universal.

The musical production, which started touring in North America earlier this year, was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the ultimately unsuccessful rebellion that led to an independent Ireland a few years later.

Celtic Nights producer Michael Durkan sees it as “a lively evening of music, dance and narrative, a departure from the company’s previous works in that it centers on this specific historical theme.

Ireland’s fight for home rule was a traumatic one, starting with the Easter Uprising, which was swiftly suppressed by the dominant British army. Durkan likens it to the American Revolution, in which, incidentally, 5,000 Irishmen lost their lives fighting for both sides.

The story also goes back in time to the 1800s when, in part because of the Irish Potato Famine, there was a mass migration to the United States and Canada. It speaks to the strong bond between Ireland and the United States and Canada.

Durkan noted Ireland’s independence movement found a great deal of support – both morally and financially – from the expat community in Canada and the United States.

The show also seeks to shine a light on the often-overlooked elements such as the role of women in the struggle. Durkan noted women played a significant part. Among the stories Spirit of Freedom tells is of Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett, who were married in jail mere hours before Plunkett was executed for his role in the rising.

Despite the serious subject matter, Spirit of Freedom is not a dour history lesson; it’s a celebratory night of song, dance and storytelling.

“It’s a night of entertainment,” notes Durkan, “not a heavy occasion.” He likens the show to the musical Les Miserables, based on Victor Hugo’s celebrated French historical novel.

While this show started touring the United States and Canada on January 8, Celtic Nights is not a new phenomenon on this side of the pond. The troupe has built a brand for itself, having previously brought shows Journey of Hope and The Emigrants Bridge here to wide acclaim.

Durkan says the show covers a lot of ground. “You’re kind of being taken somewhere every seven to eight minutes,” he says.

The audience is also included in the show, as the cast breaks down the ‘fourth wall’ to sit on the lip of the stage to talk, sing and lead them in song.

- Mike Zettell


Celtic Nights Spirit of Freedom from 1916-2016 Partridge Hall MEMBERS: $48.45 REGULAR: $55 COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY: $25 HIGH SCHOOL: $5

7:30PM Thu 11 Mar

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