Ireland’s Got Talent: A choir with ‘seventy-nine and a half boobs’ steals the show
The group of women touched by cancer were ‘everything this show is about’, judges said
Ireland’s Got Talent judges: Jason Byrne, Michelle Visage, Louis Walsh, Denise Van Outen.
Anyone watching Virgin Media’s coverage of Ireland’s Six Nations opener today would have been struck by the relentless plugs for the new season of Ireland’s Got Talent.
Presenters and commentators alike were tasked with reminding viewers to tune into the talent show lest there was a single soul in the country who wasn’t aware of its imminent return.
You can hardly blame Virgin Media for going to town on it. The show debuted last year and was an instant ratings juggernaut, averaging 350,000 viewers during its run. A successful second season would solidify its status as the station’s flagship entertainment programme and the country’s leading showcase for undiscovered talent. In other words, there is a lot riding on its success.
The season premiere begins with the judges stepping out of stretch limos as adoring fans wave miniature flags and greet them as though they are royalty. We’re then given a refresher course in what roles they play on the show as they reintroduce themselves to the public.
We’re told that Denise Van Outen is ruthless, hard to please, and unafraid to press the buzzer. Michelle Visage is sassy, maternal and, crucially, American. That means she can say things like, “He is authentic, he lives his truth, and I love that,” without mortifying herself.
Jason Byrne is there to infuse proceedings with comic relief, while Louis Walsh brings industry credibility to the panel.
The judges take to their seats in the Helix Theatre, and we’re treated to the first audition. The first act is Declan Colgan, a 20-year-old social care assistant from Mullingar. A self-professed “mammy’s boy”, Colgan comes across as a decent skin, lighting up as he talks about his work assisting people with intellectual disabilities. He takes to the piano and dazzles the judges with an assured performance of Never Tear Us Apart by INXS.
“First of all, the fact that you’re 20 and know who INXS are is amazing,” remarks Michelle Visage. He’s whisked straight through to the next round.
Things quickly go downhill as a Donald Trump impersonator named Donald Trumpet walks out on stage, dragging with him some toilet paper bearing Hillary Clinton’s face. The impersonator has Trump’s tangerine visage and hulking gait down pat, but the mask slips when he opens his mouth.
“He sounds Jamaican,” says Denise Van Outen of the dodgy accent, which does indeed sound like a curious mix of Kerry and the Caribbean. His act goes down like a lead balloon, and the judges make clear that he won’t be progressing to the next stage. He then proceeds to distribute Maga hats to each of the judges before being taken away by security guards.
Diminutive hairdresser and champion Irish dancer Jake O’Shea stuns with his performance, which sees him Irish dance and vogue across the stage to the dulcet tones of Britney Spears’s Work Bitch.
It’s utterly electrifying. “That wasn’t Riverdance, that was Riverprance!” beams Michelle Visage.
Arguably the standout performance of the night comes from Sharyn Ward, a “proud Traveller woman” and aunt to actor John Connors. Before stepping out on stage, she speaks of her desire to be a role model to not only the Traveller community, but to her two young children.
A traditional Irish singer, she sings Stand By Me. It’s perfectly pleasant, but Louis Walsh urges her to sing an Irish song, one that’s more in her wheelhouse. After briefly composing herself, she belts out Sweet Sixteen by Finbar Furey without any accompaniment.
Silence descends on the room, and presenter Lucy Kennedy is seen wiping a tear from her eye. It’s spine-tingling stuff and Walsh is left vindicated.
But it’s Sea of Change who steal the show. Formed by a group of women who took part in the the world’s “largest ever skinny dip”, the choir is comprised of women whose lives have been touched by cancer.
“Out of a possible ninety boobs, we have seventy-nine and a half,” says the group’s leader. They then perform a rousing rendition of This Is Me from The Greatest Showman, propelling the audience to their feet.
As a spectacle, it is undeniably moving and uplifting, causing Denise Van Outen to press the coveted golden buzzer.
“You are everything this show is about,” says Van Outen. She’s not wrong.
While Ireland’s Got Talent rarely deviates from the talent show formula, it does occasionally strike gold.
Emotionally manipulative? Possibly. Effective? Yes. Ireland’s Got Talent knows how to keep us watching.