Letterkenny Musical Society Director Maria Rushe is headed to Killarney for the prestigious Association of Irish Musical Societies (AIMS) awards, representing the northwest with pride.

The Newtowncunningham woman is nominated as one of the top three directors in the country following a hugely successful sold-out run of The Addams Family.

The production has also been nominated for Best Technical, marking a significant double achievement for the society in its inaugural year with AIMS.

Maria was both stunned and flattered by her nomination when it was announced last month.

It’s an award for the whole of the Letterkenny Musical Society, Maria said as she prepares to make the journey to Kerry this week with committee PRO Nicola Shields.

The 2024 Addams Family production team- Choreographer Emmett Stewart, Producer Noel O’Donnell, Director Maria Rushe, Costume Lorraine Porter, Musical Director Gerard Bradley and PRO Nicola Shields

“I didn’t even realise Best Director was a category, I knew there was one for best overall show and I was delighted to be nominated for Best Technical it was a massive achievement but I got an awful shock when my name was called out

“I’m delighted, it’s lovely to have your work acknowledged and to have your creative vision acknowledged.”

Maria said: “The award is decided based on the show, it’s not about me. I would imagine it’s judged based on how well the show is put together and that is a lovely compliment to the technical and creative team to the committee and cast and crew. It really is an award for the whole society. We’d also like to acknowledge the staff at An Grianán.”

This marks Maria’s third production as the main director for LMS. She was the choreographer for 8 years before serving as assistant director to Donal Kavanagh for 9 to 5 The Musical. Since then, Maria’s directorial credits include Evita, Kinky Boots,” and two runs of The Addams Family.

Maria on the set of Kinky Boots last year

As nightmarish as the Addams Family plot is, the first run in March 2020 was an unprecedented catastrophe. The society was just days into the live shows when the pandemic forced them to cancel.

“One of my worst moments in my adult life and my life in drama was stepping on the stage in 2020 and telling the cast and crew we were finished,” Maria said. “There was an awful lot of confusion, some people thought we would be back in a week or two, but I knew in myself it wasn’t going to happen we had to pull the pin.”

Raw from the experience, they parked The Addams family and opted for the hit comedy Kinky Boots in 2023 and gained confidence back on the stage.

“We did have unfinished business with the Addams Family,” Maria said.

A new musical director, new choreographer and brand new script gave it a new lease of life.

“It was nice to pull the curtain back up on that,” Maria said, and the AIMS recognition made it even more rewarding.

Letterkenny Musical Society’s The Addams Family 2024

Maria underscores the importance of remembering that local amateur musical societies entertain us on a voluntary basis. “It’s a hobby, it’s fun, it’s something we are passionate about but we do take it seriously and put hours and hours of our life into it,” she says.

“It’s always worth it, that first night when you hear the applause and the reaction to the cast on the stage.”

The technical nomination is a tribute to the sound and lighting crew.

“The Addams Family is very technically heavy and it takes great people to make our ideas happen,” Maria said, applauding the visionary Niall Cranney, technician at An Grianan Theatre and Nigel Caldwell on sound, who never misses a beat.

Maria and Niall Cranney thrash out some ideas on set

Her own nomination, she said, is a reflection of the whole cast and crew. Whether or not they win on Saturday night, Maria feels that the journey has already been a triumph.

“To be in a category as one of the top three directors in the country is massive for me and I’m going to enjoy every second of it,” she said.

“I’ve been blown away by the support and encouragement from not just friends and family but the other musical societies in the area. Myself and Nicola will be flying the flag for musical theatre in the North West. We wish Encore’s James Thompson and the Londonderry Musical Society the best of luck too.”

Maria adds: “Drama is going from the page to the stage. We all have enough drama in our own lives. What is lovely about musicals and all sorts of amateur drama is you get to put the drama where it’s supposed to be. I’m very privileged to be the director where I get to bring things from the page, through my wee mad imagination, to the stage and I will continue to do it as long as I can.”

Maria Rushe at The Addams Family rehearsals