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About Billie Barry Stage School
Founded in 1964, the Billie Barry Stage School has long been an Irish institution whose reputation for excellence is unique and unprecedented. Pupils from as young as 3 are treated to a curriculum that provides recreation, entertainment and education, and an illustrious list of professional entertainment alumni testifies to the school's achievements. The School is now run by Lorraine Barry, daughter of founder Billie Barry, and features Peter Beckett as Musical Director and Carla Purdue as School Secretary.
Lorraine Barry - Director
Born into the famous Barry theatrical family, Lorraine began her training at the Billie Barry Stage School at the tender age of 3. As a child she appeared regularly on stage, television and film and was one of the original team of Billie Barry Kids to debut in the Gaiety theatre pantomime with the legendary Maureen Potter.
At the age of 16 Lorraine began appearing as a professional dancer in numerous pantos at the Gaiety, in musicals, cabaret, on television and in film. She formed her own dance group Firebird, which performed regularly on the Dublin cabaret circuit, guested on the "Late Late Show" and was featured in the Edna O'Brien film "The Country Girls".
With an inherited passion for working with children, Lorraine returned to the Stage School as a teacher in 1983 working alongside her mother, Billie Barry. She became principal choreographer and was responsible for many of the Billie Barry Kids "Late Late Toy Shows" and highly acclaimed "Fashion Awards" appearances.
With the Stage School's further development in mind, Lorraine introduced the highly successful Summer Theatre School in 1987. It has proven to be extremely popular among the students, and its talent showcase staged on the term's final day each year is a perennial audience favourite.
After 35 wonderful years dedicated to the Stage School, Billie Barry announced her retirement in 1999 and Lorraine became director of the School. With Lorraine at the helm the School continues to flourish. Classes are held daily, and Lorraine looks forward with excitement to the twice yearly new enrolments. She equally enjoys nurturing new up and coming talent as well as following the success of so many of the School's past and senior students.
In 2001 Lorraine added a new dimension to the School with the introduction of the Junior, Intermediate and Senior Choirs run by the School's Musical Director Peter Beckett. The Choir's debut performance in "Musicala" was a sell out for its run at the Liberty Hall Theatre in 2004. This was followed by the highly successful "Musicala 2" Concert in 2007 and "Musicala 3" in 2010 which received tremendous acclaim. The choir also featured in concert in "Any Dream will Do" at the National Concert Hall in 2009 and in the Billie Barry Living Legend Award at the National Concert Hall in 2010.
2005 heralded the 40th Anniversary of the Billie Barry School. For that occasion, Lorraine created, choreographed, directed and produced "Rhythm in Our Shoes", an enormous production that featured all of the School's students, special guest star June Rodgers and past pupils Joe Conlan, Susan Mc Fadden and Anthony Kirwan.The follow up to the 40th Anniversary production was "Moving Right Along" staged at the Gaiety Theatre in November 2008. This show again featured all of the Stage School students with June Rodgers and past pupils Shane Creevey and Keith Hanna as guests. The show was a phenomenal success and received unprecedented acclaim for it's sell out run. With the "Time of Our Lives" staged at the Gaiety Theatre in November, 2011, Lorraine took the school to new heights. This massive production again featuring all of the school's students with special guests June Rodgers and Michael Joseph received nightly standing ovations and a shower of accolades from all who saw it. The show received a tremendous amount of positive media coverage. See Multi Media Page
The Billie Barry Kids are in constant demand and Lorraine is always kept busy devising and creating new works for performance. They feature annually in Concert at the NCH and in the Hallelujah concerts at the RDS. In addition to her many creative and administrative duties with the School, Lorraine also oversees the agency which books the Billie Barry Kids for appearances and performances in commercials, radio voiceovers, movie castings, press launches etc.
Peter Beckett - Musical Director
Peter's involvement with the Billie Barry Stage School began over 20 years ago with the annual Summer School which is held every July. Since then he has been Musical Director for the very successful variety shows of 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2011, all performed in the Gaiety Theatre. He has arranged the vocals and orchestrated the large majority of the songs in these shows and he has also composed several of them as well. Peter has also arranged and composed songs for the many Christmas concerts held in the RDS and the NCH that the school have been involved with every year.
The introduction of the choirs in 2001 has given the school an extra musical dimension as the children's singing talents are continuously developed throughout the year. There are four choirs of different ages and the Musicala concerts staged in Liberty Hall as well as the end of term concerts, have all been very well received.
Peter is also the Musical Director for the Gaiety pantomime where his arranging and compositional skills have been brought to the fore. The forthcoming production of Cinderella will be his seventeenth year with the theatre.
Peter was Musical Director with the Guinness Musical Society for sixteen years until it's closure and enjoyed many successes both in AIMS and the Waterford Light Opera Festival. Shows include the Irish Premiere of Evita, Cabaret, New Pirates of Penzance, L'il Abner, On Your Toes, 42nd Street, Barnum, Singing in the Rain, Crazy for You, Mack & Mabel and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Musicals with other societies include Pippin, Chicago, Billy, Best Little Whorehouse, Grease, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, West Side Story, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Our House.
Peter's professional career began in the early eighties playing guitar with Johnny Logan, then with Dickie Rock and many other well renowned artists. He was involved with John Player Tops for almost twenty years, and appeared in no less than five National Finals, winning outright in 1990 and 1991
Outside of theatre work, Peter continues to work regularly both as a freelance musician playing keyboards and guitar, and as a record producer. He has kept abreast of the continual changes in music technology, as this has become an integral part of his work.
He arranged and co-produced Eleanor McEvoy's album Love Must Be Tough, her single Oh Uganda and co-produced her album I'd Rather Go Blonde. His work with the 'Blow the Dust Off Your Trumpet' orchestra in the NCH culminated in the RTE documentary 'Coming Of Age'.
Billie Barry - Founder
The roots of the Billie Barry School run deep. Billie's was a theatrical family. Her father John Clarke-Barry had several orchestras and was a respected musician. Her mother was an amateur operatic singer. Billie Barry was a solo performer at the tender age of five. Later, in a close harmony act, "The Barry Sisters", she toured extensively in Ireland and the U.K. and broadcast regularly for the BBC and Irish radio.
She then travelled to the Empire Theatre, Belfast, with Noel Purcell's show "Anything May Happen" and remained there for many years as a singer, dancer and choreographer with Gerald Morrison's famous production "Come To The Show".
Backed by such a wealth of experience, The Billie Barry Stage School was founded in 1964.The school had a mere 36 students on its first day but Billie's professionalism was obvious even then. From the onset a broad range of dance singing and Stage- craft was taught, with the aim of producing well-rounded professional theatre practitioners. Such an approach is impressive even today, when a lack of discipline and ignorance of theatre protocol are still cited by directors and choreographers as causes for talented performers losing out in the jobs market.
Within six months of its foundation, the school had students appearing on television in the children's show Saoirse agus Bartley. Not long after, Billie won an audition for the pantomime at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre, beginning a 36-year tradition that is still running today. Subsequently, the Billie Barry Stage School was given a coveted appearance on the Late Late Show, which gave the school and the pupil's wide exposure all across the country. Highlights through the Years.
Billie retired in 1999 and the reins were handed over to her talented daughter, Lorraine, who knows every aspect of the business. The school has continued to prosper beyond her wildest dreams. Billie is always a welcome visitor to the school on Parents' days, enrolment days, or just simply to chat with, advise and encourage the students.
In 2010 Billie Barry was honoured with the Variety Club of Ireland "Living Legend" Award at a celebratory concert staged in the National Concert Hall. The show was a phenomenal success and it was fantastic to see so many past and present students gathered together to honour the school's founder. This was followed on by an invitation to dinner from President Mary Mc Aleese to celebrate Billie's life achievements.
Billie's hope is that the students of the school will take with them a treasure trove of happy memories that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.