Cracker of a night for Frank
Published 02/03/2013 | 00:00
"Mr Carson, the show must go on," boomed the offstage announcement at the start of last night's tribute show to the late comedy legend.
And just like the man himself, go on it did, with more than two dozen acts taking to the Grand Opera House stage to celebrate Frank Carson's life and career.
As host Gerry Kelly promised, it was a night of entertainment befitting the much-missed Belfast funnyman.
The organisers had assembled a 'cracker' bill, kicking off with the ever-popular Queen tribute Flash Harry and ending nearly three hours later with footage of a vintage Carson routine.
In between, a near-capacity crowd of Frank's fans, friends and family enjoyed comedy, song and reminiscences from a host of mainly Ulster-born stars.
Eighty-nine-year-old queen of showtunes Leila Webster sang Send in the Clowns, cueing William Caulfield, Jimmy Cricket, Adrian Walsh, Tom O'Connor and Gene Fitzpatrick to troop on with old-school humour.
O'Connor proved he has lost none of the wit that made him a household name in the 1980s. Sporting icons Willie John McBride, Pat Jennings, Dennis Taylor and Dame Mary Peters told wry anecdotes of their meetings – or rather, run-ins – with Carson, while singer Rose Marie offered sincere words of tribute to her 'mentor'.
The most touching testimony came from the Ulster acting legend James Ellis, who gave Carson his first job in showbusiness and had remained friends with him across six decades. Music-wise, the show served up some surprises. Adrian Dunbar duetting with Brian Kennedy was unusual enough, but only at a Frank Carson memorial show might you find Barry McGuigan belting out Sweet Home Alabama. Eurovision winner Niamh Kavanagh sang well on a cover of Mustang Sally. The procession of stars seemed to be never-ending, with mind reader David Meade, X Factor winner Joe McElderry and Baroness May Blood.
Baroness Blood spoke passionately of Carson's support of the Integrated Education Fund, which – with CLIC Sargent's Homes from Home Appeal – was the beneficiary of this brilliantly entertaining bash.