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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, Robyn Hargadon (Lorraine’s Daughter) as assistant teacher and Carla Purdue as School Secretary.
Lorraine Barry - Director
Proud to be born into the famous theatrical Barry family, Lorraine began her days at the Billie Barry Stage School at the age of 3. She had the most wonderful childhood as she experienced first-hand the strength, creativity and passion with which her mum, Billie Barry, developed the school. The weekly theatrical performances, TV appearances, Gaiety Pantomimes, Summer Seasons and the ever cherished classes were the foundation of the career she would later pursue.
Lorraine progressed to appear as a professional dancer on stage, cabaret, TV and in film. With an inherited passion for theatre, music and a love of nurturing children, Lorraine turned her talents to teaching and from 1983 began working alongside her mum. She became principal choreographer and was responsible for so many of the Billie Barry Kids Late Late Toy Show 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 become a long standing tradition and it’s talent showcase staged on the final day is awaited with excitement by students and parents alike.
In 1999 Billie Barry announced her retirement after 35 wonderful years dedicated to the stage school. With pride, she passed the reins to Lorraine, who she knew would continue to run the school with the same standard of excellence and preserve the renowned ethos. Lorraine became the sole director and with her at the helm the school continues to flourish. Lorraine would look forward to the end of term Parent’s Days, the Summer School Showcase day and indeed the Billie Barry Shows at the Gaiety where Billie Barry would sit and watch with pride.
Because of her mum’s love of music and harmony, in 2001 Lorraine added a new dimension to the school with the introduction of the Choirs run by the School’s Musical Director, Peter Beckett. Since their sell out debut production at the Liberty Hall Theatre in 2004, they have continued to enjoy their success with further concerts at the Liberty Hall Theatre, the Clasac and the National Concert Hall.
Lorraine has been solely responsible for the Billie Barry Stage School’s productions “The Millenium Beat”, “Dance Everybody Dance”, “Rhythm in Our Shoes”, “Moving Right Along” and “Time of Our Lives”, all staged at the Gaiety Theatre.
2014 heralded the 50th Anniversary of the Billie Barry Stage School. For that occasion Lorraine created, choreographed, directed and produced “Gold” , an enormous production that featured all of the school’s students, special guest June Rodgers and past pupils Ryan O’Shaughnessy , Keith Hanna and Ruth Melody. Sadly on the 30th September 2014 the school’s founder Billie Barry passed away and the 50th anniversary show became a tribute to be staged in her honour. The show was a phenomenal success and received unprecedented acclaim for it’s sell out run. There were nightly standing ovations and a shower of accolades from all who saw it. A testament to the legendary Billie Barry.
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 The Gaiety Theatre Panto, in concerts at the NCH and in the Hallelujah concerts at the RDS and City West. 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 and 2014 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 and Clasac Theatre, 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 Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf will be his twentieth 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 tradition of over 40 years 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.
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 was always a welcome visitor to the school on Parents’ days,
enrolment days, or just simply to chat with, advise and encourage
IIn 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.
Sadly on the 30th September, 2014 Billie Barry passed away leaving everyone at the stage school broken hearted.
Billie’s hope was that the students of the school would take with them a treasure trove of happy memories that would remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Billie Barry sprinkled some glitter into the lives of generations of children.
Billie Barry will live on in all of our hearts.
Billie Barry’s legacy will long outlive her, and that is something that one can only hope to achieve in life. Few do…