Woman to man: Jean McGlynn sings in suits

Musician Noel Lennon shadows Lily/ Jean, 2011
A theatrical performance with individually staged songs and choreography

‘TIS seven dry years since Jean McGlynn last gave us her vocal gold in solo show. That was ‘Lily’ in 2011 at Belltable, a series of dramatic monologues filtered through Lily by other personae, illustrated through song.

The former West End star – Fantine in ‘Les Miserables’ – has given us razzle-dazzle since. There were Cabarets de Frites @Spiegeltent, ‘Little Voice’ for College Players @Lime Tree and the screwball ‘Leading Ladies’ @UCH. There’s plenty more.

The girl is back in high theatrical form with ‘Songs in Suits’. McGlynn scales the gender gap of societal lines with her sublime three octaves in a suite of songs performed traditionally by men.

Anticipate a big production of bells and (wolf) whistles under that starry night sky of Dolan’s Warehouse on Thursday October 12, 8pm, www.dolans.ie. It will be technically and choreographically challenging; we reap the reward.

While ‘Songs in Suits’ is McGlynn’s concept and making, the actor is working with old mucker Noel Lennon’s band of five in the finetuning of chords. “I have kept the words as they are written but have arranged the works slightly.”

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The programme? Cabaret style with jazz, blues, ballads, rock and pop; songs from Cohen, Bowie, Sinatra, Freddie Mercury and.. “how can you do a Fred Astaire number and not tapdance?” Broad smile.

Musician Noel Lennon shadows Lily/ Jean in 2011

“I have picked the music throughout. I came to Noel with suggestions and we said, ‘Let’s do it. …In some ways it’s a harder sing than ‘Lily’ for where it is placed in my voice”. Namechecking Valerie and playwright Ann Blake for support, she is pleased with The Warehouse. “I need a big venue. You have seen me perform and I am not a subtle performer.” Just bloody good.

Her mother Gerdy McGlynn has a costume business that furnished these beautiful suits for choreographed performances, each garment refitted to her bodacious self. She tells me ‘Songs in Suits’ is not a statement, nor drag show, nor tribute act. But why do ‘the man’ thing? Fun?

“Fun, yes, but fun is probably the wrong word. It is stimulating artistically, that’s more like it and it’s a challenge and all of those things are important to me. And it is a lot of work – on my own.”

Invested professionally and personally in this audacious production, the graft began a long time ago, from voice to staging each number theatrically.

My money is on Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. What ever gender we are, his memo is needed – “put on your red shoes and dance the blues.”