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The best new talent set to put on their dancing shoes

By Ivan Little

Published 16/07/2015

By George, they've done it! Theatre producers who were searching for six of the Best young actors for a musical about Belfast's most famous footballer have named their winning team - which includes the granddaughter of a former Celtic player.

And so talented were the wannabe stars who auditioned for the revival of Dancing Shoes: The George Best Story at the Grand Opera House in Belfast next month that co-writer and producer Martin Lynch added a couple of other actors to his line-up of extras.

"I just couldn't believe the riches I had in front of me so I decided to give eight of them roles and we'll alternate four of them at each performance," said Martin, who wrote the hit musical with Marie Jones and musicians JJ Gilmour and Pat Gribben.

Producers were inundated with applications from dozens of hopefuls after the Belfast Telegraph ran a story about the hunt for the new stars of the future. The lucky eight were telephoned on Tuesday night with confirmation that they were getting their big break on the Opera House stage.

Shannon Drainey (18) from Lurgan told her family a little white lie about the auditions.

"I said I was going out for dinner and didn't let on about Dancing Shoes until I got the call that I was in the cast. My parents were delighted," she said.

"My late grandad Eamon McMahon was a goalkeeper for Celtic in the Fifties and he also played for Armagh's GAA team.

"But, to be honest, I'm not a football fan, though obviously I know all about George Best (below) and his son Calum, who is rather easy on the eye," said Shannon, who almost took cold feet before the auditions.

"I was so nervous that I was thinking of going home but a member of the production team saw me outside the audition room and persuaded me to stay."

Dundonald's Emma Irwin (19), who is studying drama at Bath Spa University, will realise a lifelong ambition by appearing on stage.

"I've always dreamed of being in a show at the Opera House and they don't come any bigger than Dancing Shoes. I know I will only be an extra but I am determined it will be the first step in a career in musical theatre," she said.

Craig McCune (25) from Ballybeen just graduated in musical theatre from the Arden college in Manchester and has performed at the Opera House before.

"I was 11 when I was in the cast of Carousel there. And that gave me the bug for acting. I also saw Dancing Shoes the last time it was at the Opera House. It's such a great, great show and my mum is fanatical about George Best."

Joe O'Hagan (21) from Lurgan is a Ulster University drama graduate. Joe once played the role of Norman Bates in a university production of Psycho.

"I really want to be a successful actor and I thought Dancing Shoes would be a brilliant opportunity to get a foot on the ladder."

Naomi Morrison (21) from north Belfast responded to the audition call after reading about it in the Telegraph on the same night that details about her graduation appeared in the newspaper.

"I loved dancing and drama at school but my degree was in theology so this is a wee bit different for me.

"I come from a big Manchester United family where my dad doesn't even allow us to say the name 'Liverpool', which to him is worse than a swear word."

The other three actors who've been picked to be in Dancing Shoes are Kevin Hill from west Belfast, who has been an extra in Game Of Thrones and the movie Dracula Untold; Stuart Gibson, who graduated from the East 15 acting school in Essex, and Fiona Douglas, a former civil servant who will be making her stage debut.

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