THE THURSDAY INTERVIEW MICHAEL DEVLIN
People like Christina McBeth would make you green (with envy). She’s multi-talented, whip-clever and obviously wasn’t born at the top of the ugly tree (and thus didn’t hit every branch on the waydown) – it’s just so unfair!
The 25-year-old has an endearing, easy smile too, one which borders on the sassy and as we sit sipping coffees in a cafe downtown, she strikes me as someone who is could be anything she wants to be. As things stand, Christina already has an honours degree in law and French. She can sing. She can play the guitar, the piano and the tenor horn and most recently, she wowed a succession of capacity crowds at the Alley Theatre in Strabane with her portrayal of Casey Carson in the acclaimed musical ‘Gutz’. And (and this is a big one), she can do a perfect American accent. “I was a bit worried about the accent,” Christina laughs.
She clears her throat. “I gotta get a burn on – do you mind,” she adds in a southern drawl. “But that’s part of what I loved about the musical, you could say things like that in an American accent and get away with it.” Christina is referring to David McGarrigle’s ‘Gutz’ which has garnered raving reviews since its limited run at the Alley earlier this month. Incidentally, Gutz has also secured a second run at the local theatre and the word is, it’s popularity could go stratospheric – or at least Christina thinks so anyway. A colourful tale of a small town girl (Christina’s Casey) bidding to make it in the big city, Gutz is literally all-singing, all-dancing…
For her part, Christina has been singing for as long as she can remember. She is no stranger to the Alley either having performed there on numerous occasions as one half of the McBeth Sisters (with Aoife). She is also a former member of St Joseph’s Brass Band in Strabane and is a one-time member of the folk group at Melmount chapel. And yet, despite all this, she was still hesitant about taking the lead in Gutz when she got the call from creator David. “David sent a Facebook message to me and Aoife when he was writing the musical,” she explains. “Basically he wanted to know if we’d like to be involved. Aoife couldn’t (she’s studying
medicine at Queen’s) and I thought, OK, maybe it could be a nice thing to do. “I assumed that he was asking me to be a member of the chorus; I knew his music and I thought it would be a bit of craic. But when he
said he’d like me to do the lead…” Christina trails off, wide-eyed. In short, when faced with the proposition, Christina said she’d have to think about it. It wasn’t that she was afraid of the commitment
she said (she had previously appeared in Jesus Christ Superstar at uni) but rather, she was unsure as to whether she could carry the lead off. Fortunately, she didn’t have to think too long.
“I rang him back to say I’d do it,” she smiles. “If you were talking to any of my friends or family, they’d tell you that this was perfect for me. I was still apprehensive about taking on the lead but I had auditioned for roles like this in the past in different productions but I didn’t get them. At the time, I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not supposed to get leads…’ And to add compliment to convalescence, she’s humble into the bargain.
“David was brilliant the whole way through. He was so laid back too and it was like he was saying, this is going to be brilliant if we all do our bit.” Eager to pass on credit to her co-stars, Christina paid tribute to everyone who took part in Gutz. “Absolutely everyone worked so hard to make it a success,” she said. “And it was a cast which had so many prominent roles. We had no fall-outs whatsoever and everyone got on so well.
“I think that everyone wanted to do their best for David; he’s from Strabane and most of the others are from Strabane too. Nothing was any problem for him. He was always available if anyone had a question and the way he was in rehearsals… it made going to them so much fun.” The writer himself also fully admitted he had been overwhelmed by the reaction to what was his debut piece of theatre. In fact, he said as much in this very newspaper just last week. He used the words, ‘incredible’, ‘buzz’ and ‘unbelievable’ – but not in that order. “I think it (Gutz) absolutely has legs,” Christina says. “It’s so relevant to the world today whereas if you think of other musicals, even though the songs are good, they can be a bit dated. “The music and the arrangement that David wrote for the band – it had the hair standing on the back of my neck.”
She concluded, “I’m so glad I said, ‘yes’.” • Gutz will return to the Alley in November. Tickets for these performances will go on sale in August. Check www.alley-theatre.com for updates.
Christina McBeth: ‘I think it (Gutz) absolutely has legs’