Сaitriona Fallon’s stunning performance in Tarnished Frocks and Divas’ 2017 show, Zoetica, has established her as one to watch.

WORDS LIZ FRENCH IMAGES GEORGE NOVAK + ALEX SPODYNEIKO

Caitriona’s spine-tin­gling singing voice made its Bay of Plen­ty debut in Tar­nished Frocks and Divas. She is new to the Bay but this tal­ent­ed per­former began singing pro­fes­sion­al­ly when she was 19.

In 1997, Caitri­ona made the four-hour trip to Dublin from her home town in Coun­ty Cork, Ire­land, to audi­tion for River­dance. She spent the next three years trav­el­ling with the show, in the choir and as under­study to the lead singer. Whakatane-raised Marc Ander­son was work­ing in pro­duc­tion for the show. They fell in love. River­dance became so mas­sive­ly suc­cess­ful it was split into three casts and crews for dif­fer­ent tours. Caitri­ona was offered the lead vocal­ist role for the show’s Amer­i­can tour, while Marc was in the Europe crew. Caitri­ona freely admits she put ambi­tion before her rela­tion­ship. Both sur­vived!

The River­dance days were fol­lowed by a lot of trav­el­ling and a vari­ety of pro­duc­tion jobs for Marc. The cou­ple mar­ried in 2004 in Christchurch, his birth­place. They crossed the globe sev­er­al times for fam­i­ly and careers, and their three chil­dren were born in three dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

While liv­ing in Ire­land, they formed a band, Cook­ie and the Vaude­villes, with Caitri­ona on vocals (using her child­hood nick­name), Marc on drums and per­cus­sion, and three friends on piano, gui­tar and dou­ble bass. They played reg­u­lar gigs and fes­ti­vals, and their debut album Rich­es to Rags got good air­time. “It was named for my jour­ney, from the high life of River­dance, to mum at home with kids,” she laughs.

How­ev­er, Ireland’s econ­o­my was not con­ducive to rich­es, so they decid­ed to seek a bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty in New Zealand. Their future was sealed when, late last year, Marc’s expe­ri­ence in event pro­duc­tion led to his appoint­ment as direc­tor of the Bay of Plen­ty Gar­den and Art Fes­ti­val.

This won­der­ful move for the fam­i­ly left Caitri­ona feel­ing a bit adrift and daunt­ed. “I’d recent­ly turned 40 and was miss­ing fam­i­ly and friends – and my band. They were like fam­i­ly too, as we wrote songs togeth­er and were doing pret­ty well. Here I was in New Zealand. Marc was rel­ish­ing his new role. Leah, Catie and Daniel were set­tled in school at Mount Maun­ganui, and I was at a loose end. Get­ting the role in Zoet­i­ca was like a gift!”

What a Voice! Tar­nished Frocks and Divas pro­duc­tion team saw Caitri­ona as a gift to them as well. Pro­duc­er, Den­ny Spee, report­ed at the time, “We’ve had the most amaz­ing singer audi­tion. Caitri­ona Fal­lon just arrived from Ire­land. Holy shmoly, what a voice, and she can act! She has the lead role as Alex Peach Park­er. A beau­ti­ful lady, so hum­ble and so tiny.”

Caitri­ona acknowl­edges that act­ing was out of her com­fort zone. “But this show has always been about grow­ing and being brave.” Sub­tle­ty and expres­sion are even more impor­tant when shown on the big screen behind the stage. She car­ried it off superbly, though it was when she sang that she total­ly mes­merised Zoetica’s audi­ence.

She loved the whole expe­ri­ence. “From the day of my audi­tion, every moment of the Tar­nished Frocks and Divas jour­ney has been such a joy. I am hap­pi­est when I am singing, and was so hap­py being sur­round­ed by peo­ple with such cre­ativ­i­ty, com­mit­ment and com­pas­sion. I felt pas­sion­ate about Zoet­i­ca and was dread­ing it being over.”

While Tar­nished Frocks and Divas may be per­formed pre­dom­i­nant­ly by ama­teurs, Caitri­ona was blown away by the tal­ent. “The cast were fan­tas­tic: music, chore­og­ra­phy, cos­tumes and graph­ics so bril­liant. The over­all vision and non-stop ded­i­ca­tion of Mar­i­lyn Collins-Smith, the direc­tor, and the pro­duc­er, Den­ny Spee, were inspir­ing. When I was around them, I felt strange­ly com­fort­able but also a bit star struck.”

Caitriona’s involve­ment in the show has meant a lot to her per­son­al­ly as well as pro­fes­sion­al­ly. “I have made such gor­geous friends and feel so much more part of this com­mu­ni­ty now that I have per­formed in this phe­nom­e­nal show.”

So, what’s next? “I def­i­nite­ly want to con­tin­ue singing. I have to sing. I trust some­thing will hap­pen. It would be amaz­ing to get the rest of my band over from Ire­land. I think Cook­ie and the Vaude­villes would go down real­ly well here. May­be the next Jazz Fes­ti­val!”
Marc Ander­son is proud of his wife and delight­ed she has found a niche here. “Cook­ie was born to sing,” he says.

Caitri­ona Fal­lon is an exam­ple of yet anoth­er amaz­ing tal­ent choos­ing to live in the Bay of Plen­ty. We are sure to see and hear more of her.