Flanagan's Wake Returns, Cast Announced

Published on February 17th, 2023


Flanagan's Wake Returns for 2023

Irish Shenanigans by West Bend Theatre Company

West Bend Theatre Company announces the return of “Flanagan’s Wake” to the West Bend Masonic Center for the Saint Patrick’s season. An interactive comedy with music and improv, wisely makes its' return after a pandemic era hiatus. The show was created by original members of Second City comedy troupe and Noble Fool Theatres of Chicago. The 2020 production was closed during the March 2020 pandemic lockdown. Performers are delighted to return and finish out the run for 2020, with more than half of the team returning to the fold.

In West Bend, the show is complemented with live Irish Music, and décor befitting the Irish Wake it is. Performance musicians include Janice Westphal on Piano, Therese Sizer on Flute, Chloe Bauer on Fiddle, and Joe Heger on Irish Button Box Accordion.

“Flanagan’s Wake” offers a unique experience because of the format.  It is interactive improv theater. The show depends on the wit of its audience. From time to time, the cast will request a suggestion from the audience that can take the show in one direction or another. The cast improvises the show based on the audience’s “recollections” of the mythical Flanagan. The extended family at “Flanagan’s Wake” incorporates everyone in the audience who chooses to become involved, but in a way that makes you feel like you’re a vital part of the show. In truth, you are vital to the show, because the actors ask the audience to recall the time, place, or name of a story element in such a way that you are compelled to reply. By providing a simple one-word answer, the story develops as you suggest. Often it must rhyme, or build upon another answer given by a previous respondent. Just as often it is a nonsensical suggestion, which the actors accept, and incorporate into the show. The actors must work with whatever you suggest, (or politely skip you with a “No that couldn’t be it.”) Using many audience suggestions, the hilarity builds throughout the evening.

And it’s not just the story that uses audience suggestions, the music relies upon the audience too. Flanagan’s favorite song is driven by audience input, and members of the audience are invited to sing along – and one is invited to perform a solo.

Directed by Robb Bessey, the West Bend Theatre Company’s Artistic Director says “You can help celebrate Flanagan’s life and mourn his death with a few pints and plenty of tears - of laughter! Bring your friends, and join the cast, as they gather ‘round the casket and raise a glass for the man 'Himself' in true Irish fashion." Robb would know. He played the part of Flanagan’s best friend, Brian Ballybunion in the company’s 2020 production-run of “Flanagan’s Wake” “I loved every minute of this show as a cast member, and rehearsals are an absolute hoot for me this time, as the director. I can’t wait for this show to be onstage. Audiences will love it. This cast is better than ever.”

On entering the performance space of the West Bend production, patrons are checked in by an usher, and are given a “a piece of Irish gold” and a name tag so they can be invited to participate. The “gold” can be redeemed for an Irish beverage. Tickets to “Flanagan’s Wake” include one NA Beer. Premium seats include a table for the show and the beer. General admission seats include the same beer, but patrons must hold their beer all night as they are seated “in the pews” with no table. All beers can be “upgraded” with a donation to the Theatre Company, made at the bar.

Patrons are asked to sign the guest book and begin to meet the locals. The locals are cast members. They include the parish priest and friends and family of the deceased Flanagan.  In 2023, the cast happily announces the return of Mike Shelby as Father Damon Fitzgerald, Beth Reichart as Fiona Finn, Nichole Kivela as Kathleen Mooney. Added to the 2023 cast are Terry Heller as Brian Ballybunion, Shaun Kempf as Mickey Finn, Steve Sizer as Mayor Martin O’Doul (the bartender) and John Sancomb as Mother. 

West Bend Theatre Company is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded in 2010. They are known for presenting West Bend’s production of “A Christmas Carol”  and will be presenting “Calendar Girls” in May of 2023 to help Chix 4 A Cause, a local charity supporting cancer patients.

Performances of “Flanagan’s Wake” are March 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 PM, AND also March 11, 12, 18, 19 at 2:00 PM at the West Bend Masonic Center. The facility is wheelchair and walker accessible.

All tickets are sold at WestBendTheatreCo.com/Shows

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