Tristan MacManus and the Boston Pops
Many Americans have only one impression of the Irish: that which was presented in Frank McCourt's novel Angela's Ashes. The book presented a view of a poverty-stricken population that was morose and without hope. That's not an accurate depiction of Ireland or the whole population of the Emerald Isle.
Dancer Tristan MacManus is the antithesis of what McCourt depicts in his best-selling book. Born in Bray, County Wicklow, MacManus is bright, energetic and full of optimism. He came to the attention of Americans through television's Dancing With the Stars, beginning in their troupe but quickly becoming one of their pros and was paired with Pamela Anderson, Valerie Harper, Nancy Grace, Dorothy Hamill and Patti La Belle. His American career began in the touring companies of Burn the Floor and Flashdance but was quickly scooped up by Dancing With the Stars, having appeared in the British version of the show, called Strictly Come Dancing. He quickly became a fan favorite and at one of his personal appearances, a fan confessed she'd driven the span of four states to meet him.
Now MacManus is preparing for his debut with the Boston Pops in a program called Dance to the Movies. It's an evening of dances devised by top choreographers to music from such sensational films as West Side Story, Grease and a host of others. In this version, MacManus will share the stage with another DWTS alum, Anna Trebunskia, as well as Oscar nominee Lesley Ann Warren, who television viewers will fondly recall as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Theater-goers will recall her from the original 110 in the Shade, in which her rendition of "Little Red Hat" stopped the show cold at every performance.
Dance to the Movies has toured the States for the past several years, but their music has been a pre-recorded soundtrack. Their engagement with the Boston Pops will be the first time the music will be performed live by an orchestra, let alone one with the acclaim of the Boston Pops. Maestro Keith Lockhart will conduct these performances.
"I can't wait to hear that orchestra! This is a great show to begin with but performing in front of a live orchestra really takes it up a step! " MacManus exclaims in a phone call from Australia, where he now lives with his wife (actress/model Tahyna Tozzi) and their young daughter, named Echo Isolde.
His daughter's name is quite significant because Tristan's father had difficulty in naming his son when it came to Baptism. The Catholic Church has long held the tradition that children should be baptized with the names of saints. Of course, this tradition was strictly adhered to in Ireland. Papa MacManus was naming his son after the figure of Celtic legend and this confused the parish priest who was administering the sacrament. Ultimately, it was learned that there was, indeed, a Saint Tristan, and that a cathedral in southern England is named for him. Now, his daughter's middle name of Isolde keeps the legend of Tristan and Isolde in the MacManus family.
MacManus has been branching out a bit and testing his acting and comic chops in the zany Mrs. Brown's Boys-a UK television show that also is performed as a live stage show in certain venues and Mrs. Brown is played by Brendan O'Carroll. He joined the cast as Elder Peach and has became one of the show's producers. "I used to complain to producers about this and that but now I'm the one who people are complaining to." However, MacManus considers himself a professional dancer first and foremost.
Now MacManus is focusing on his debut with the Pops, where he'll not only be dancing but sharing the emceeing chores with Anna Trebunskia. "Oh, I'm looking forward to seeing my friends on this side of the pond. It'll be great to renew those friendships. As an Irishman, I understand I'll feel very comfortable in Boston." That's for sure but maybe he'll have the time to sample some "chowda" and maybe even a bit of Boston Cream Pie while he's in Beantown. One thing is certain, though: with his Gaelic charm and energetic personality, he's bound to make lasting impressions on those in Symphony Hall.
Dance to the Movies will be performed with the Boston Pops on June 9th. There will be a matinee and evening performance, with children's tickets half price at the matinee. To order tickets go to bso.org.