Young Actor scores Golden Role

Dean McCullough to play Roy Keane in musical comedy I, Keano

Eleven-year-old Dean McCullough was unveiled on Monday, April 16 as the actor chosen play a young Roy Keane in NI’s first ever performance of the smash hit musical comedy, I, Keano.

A pupil of Ballyholme Primary School, Bangor, McCullough faced the cameras in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.

In a whirlwind four days, McCullough auditioned and was chosen for the part on Friday 13 before being revealed to the press three days later.

Dean McCulloughA graduate of the Lyric Players' Theatre’s Youth Lyric programme, McCullough will be dancing and singing his way onto the stage at the Waterfront Hall from April 23-25.

'I’ve been acting with the Youth Lyric for three years now,’ said McCullough, seemingly unperturbed by the sudden rush of attention.

‘I took part in The End of the Year Show, and I’ve also acted in school plays. But this will be my first time acting on such a big stage.’

Written by Father Ted co-writer, Arthur Mathews with Michael Nugent and Paul Woodfull, I, Keano is a pseudo-Roman take on the Irish football team’s infamous World Cup debacle in Saipan. The play is directed by Terry Byrne.

In the show, an ancient Federation sends a legion to prepare for a momentous war. Keano, their greatest warrior, has a fierce temper and a passion for perfection shared only by his supernatural mentor, Fergie the hair-dryer God.

Their earnest General, Macartacus, is aided by the enthusiastic Quinness, who builds children’s hospitals, and Packie Bonnerus, an expert in using gladiator nets. But the problems start when Keano arrives.

I, KeanoThe mighty warrior finds that the ground is to hard, the troops are partying, and the Federation has forgotten to bring daggers and tunics. Will it all kick off, or will Keano bite his tongue?

‘We took the show to Manchester last year, shortly after Keane left Manchester United, and did brilliant business in the Lowry Theatre,’ producer Breda Cash revealed.

‘But this will be the first time that the show will play in NI, starting off in Belfast and moving to Derry.

‘The show has been three years on the road now, having played all the major theatres in the south.

'It’s really gathering momentum. It’s currently playing in Cork [Keane’s home town] for the fourth time. So we hope that it will go down well in Belfast.’

I, Keano is one of several musical comedies making waves in the theatre world at present, with similar shows such Eric Idles’ Spamalot breaking records on Broadway and storming London’s West End.

Cash believes that audiences have turned a corner with regards musical theatre in recent years, and argues that if Keane himself can laugh at Mathews’ epic farce, then anything is possible.

Breda Cash‘He came to see the show in Dublin,’ says Cash. ‘I was sitting beside him when he saw it, and he loved it. Obviously, there were few nerves going around the cast when they found out that he was in the audience. But he really appreciated the comedy and took it for what it was worth, which was great.’

Cash was clearly impressed with the acting talent NI following the casting auditions for the part of the young Keane, and believes that McCullough will be a welcome addition to the cast.

‘I think he’s going to be great,’ she enthused. ‘Of course, he is going to be thrown in at the deep end, but the cast are used to making our young actors feel at ease, so I’m sure he’ll be fine. We're all really looking forward to seeing how he does. He’s obviously got a lot of talent.’

I, Keano will run in the Waterfront from April 23-25, and in the Millennium Forum in Derry from April 30-May 5.