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.