Celtic Woman ensemble excited to share American audience enthusiasm

Posted March 02, 2013, at 4:18 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — It’s been almost a decade since Celtic Woman began touring the U.S. and the rest of the world, but as familiar as Susan McFadden was with the tour showcasing the music and dancing of Ireland, it was a new experience.

“For me personally, on a performance level, I’ve always played a character or a part,” said McFadden, a longtime stage actress, by phone while waiting to put on a Thursday night performance in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “In this thing, it’s just me performing as myself. It was quite scary at first, but now I love it. It’s so liberating because you’re just you.”

As a native of Dublin, Ireland, McFadden couldn’t be more authentically Celtic. The Irish lass and her three fellow Celtic women stars — Chloe Agnew, Mairead Nesbitt and Lisa Lambe — will put on two shows at Merrill Auditorium in Portland Saturday, one at 3 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for both shows by calling 842-0800, buying them in person at the Merrill box office at 20 Myrtle Street, or going online at www.waterfrontconcerts.com. Tickets are $47.50, $67.50 and $107.50, not including applicable fees.

McFadden joined the cast last summer to replace Lisa Kelley, who left the tour because she was expecting her fourth child.

“I knew Lisa and Chloe, whose mom I worked with when I was younger,” said McFadden, who has been performing in various musicals in London’s West End for several years. “They recommended me, so the producers called me.”

“I’ve been on stage my whole life,” McFadden said. “I started as a stage girl from the age of 4 on. So when I got this opportunity, I was thrilled to join. It’s a great honor.”

McFadden said it has been even better than she expected, and she had great expectations.

“We’ve traveled all over the world and America with the show and it’s been an amazing experience and a great adventure,” she said. “It’s a tough job at times, with the travel and all, but we get looked after very well.”

According to the Celtic Woman website, more than 6 million Celtic Woman CDs or DVDs and another 1.7 million tickets have been sold internationally. Two of their albums debuted as Billboard Top 200 top 10 entries and three have gone either platinum (1 million or more sold) or gold.

Ironically, McFadden had never seen the show live before joining up.

“I had seen them on DVDs and stuff, but never been to a live performance,” she said with a slight laugh of shame. “I know, I know. Bad.”

The supporting stage ensemble includes a choir, a full band, Irish dancers and a bagpiper.

McFadden is looking forward to continuing the tour in America.

“I think Americans will be clapping and hollering right from the beginning. They are much more participatory,” she said. “The European crowds stay reserved early on, but eventually just start getting into it. Me, I just go with it.”

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