Song and dance keep Irish spirit alive

Will Millar dinner theatre celebrates traditional culture

Former Irish Rovers Will Millar brings his distinctive blend of humourous stories and Irish pub tunes to the David Foster Foundation Theatre in the Oak Bay Beach Hotel this week.

There are few things more near and dear to the hearts of the Irish than music, stories and good company.

All three of these essential elements will be at the forefront of Irish Rover Will Millar’s live dinner theatre show Ireland: Where the Song and Dance Began, starting Friday, March 15 at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, 1175 Beach Dr.,  and running Friday and Saturday nights until April 20.

Joining Millar on stage will be singer-songwriter Mary Murphy, guitarist Paul Keim, fiddler Daniel Lapp, Riverdance dancer Joel Hanna and singer Chuck McCandless. Along with a couple of Irish Rovers classics, the group will be singing more traditional Irish songs, telling stories, reading poems, dancing and highlighting the history of Ireland through video projection.

“We kind of portray an Ireland that may not exist anymore in Ireland,” Millar said, “But it exists in people’s imaginations of what Ireland might be.”

Growing up in Ballymena in Northern Ireland, Millar said he never understood how widely celebrated St. Patrick’s Day is until he came to North America.

“I never saw St. Patrick’s Day when I grew up in Ireland,” Millar said. “It was a day that you went to church.”

The Irish Rovers toured the world for more than 30 years, primarily due to the popularity of The Unicorn song. Millar left the band in 1995 and now lives in Maple Bay.

Millar has been performing versions of this show for more than a decade now, primarily through New Zealand and Australia. Inspiration came from the history of Irish song and storytelling, something which Millar said has helped the Irish find an identity in the world and overcome prejudice.

“I believe that the Irish were such a tormented race over the generations,” Millar said. “I do believe that the music kept them going. I believe it was their spiritual identity. … They could be in dire straits but an Irish jig or an Irish reel would get them up dancing, get the blood going and give them an identity.”

The Oak Bay Beach Hotel hosts dinner theatre in its David Foster Foundation Theatre. The meal will be a three-course traditional Irish dinner. Along with the dinner theatre, a selection of Millar’s paintings will be on display at the hotel.

“Although it’s a very elegant environment, it’s a very relaxed environment,” said hotel owner Kevin Walker. “It’s not unlike a kitchen party on the east coast or a ceilidh.”

The show is suitable for all audiences

A contest is also being held to give away a seven-day all expenses paid trip to Ireland. All guests of the dinner theatre will be entered into the draw, which will be held at the end of the show’s run.

The performance runs every Friday and Saturday starting Friday, March 15 until Saturday, April 20. Tickets are $109 per person, plus taxes, including the meal and show. To purchase tickets call 250-598-4556.