Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Pretty Woman and the Irish couple on tour with it

Rachael and Shane Ffrench , OTR with Pretty Woman
Rachael and Shane Ffrench are on the road with Pretty Woman. Courtesy photo.

 

When the Broadway musical version of the 1990 rom-com blockbuster movie Pretty Woman hits Chicago March 12 through March 17, it will bring a touch of Ireland along with it.

Music director Shane Ffrench hails from Wexford, while company manager Rachael Ffrench is from Limerick.

Unlike the fanciful, Pygmalion-like, weirdly problematic way the couple in Pretty Woman met and fell in love, Shane and Rachael did that in a decidedly more typical way.

“We met at college in Cork,” Shane said.

Either way, when not touring the United States with Crossroads Live productions of Broadway hits, the two now are based in Florida.

Shane said moving stateside came about after he took a job a half decade or so ago with a company that had a contract with Disney in Orlando.

Back in Ireland, Shane’s work included a stint as music director at the Cork Opera House, jobs with the country’s renowned theaters, including the Gaiety in Dublin, and on TV’s The Voice and the long-running The Late, Late Show, during Ryan Turbridy’s tenure.

For The Voice, Shane put together arrangements and played keyboards. WIth the chat show, he was part of the music production team, putting together backing tracks and playing on the annual Christmastime toy show episode.

After Disney and prior to Pretty Woman, Shane toured the U.S. with Cats, The Color Purple and Kinky Boots.

Rachael worked as a photographer in Ireland. She still takes photos when she can while on the road. She posts shots on her Instagram account,  @rdesign_photography_

Rachael started with Crossroads Live as merchandise manager for The Color Purple, worked a higher level job for a Cats tour and now is company manager for Pretty Woman.

Her current job involves overseeing a team of 46 people who are on the road with the show. Her duties include the day-to-day details of the operation such as getting the production from one place to the next, keeping track of everyone, making sure everyone is paid and making sure theaters pay what’s due the tour.

As music director, Shane oversees all aspects of the show’s music, from rehearsing and bringing in musicians and singers to conducting each performance. For Pretty Woman, he also plays keyboards.

Of working in the United States, Shane said what the couple enjoys is the consistency of work they’ve found here. Tours keep them busy for up to 10 months at a time, then another tour coming along.

“It can be a very difficult life being a musician back in Ireland, going from one job to the next,” he said.

For the Pretty Woman tour, the two are trying something a bit different in terms of how they are getting from one town to the next.

“Shane and I have changed our lifestyle a bit. We’re traveling by RV. That way we can have our cats with us,” Rachael said.

That’s presented challenges, some of which Shane said he’s not ready to talk about just yet.

Most arduous was in February when the couple drove 400 miles or so through a blinding snowstorm to get to a theater in South Dakota, Shane said.

Parking the RV can be an issue, too. Rachael said she uses an app to find sites. For stops in bigger cities, though, that can mean staying a good distance from a theater.

The road also means Rachael has less time to spend taking photos, particularly when there are some one-night-only stops on the tour. However, the visit to Chicago will have Pretty Woman in town running Monday, March 12 through Sunday,  St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, when there’s a 1 p.m. matinee scheduled.

That might give Rachael time to at least get a quick look at the Chicago River dyed green, the oddly dressed revelers and the downtown parade Saturday not too far from CIBC Theatre.

Past the current tour, once off the road, the two will be joining family from Ireland for a trip this summer to Yellowstone National Park. The couple said that family members now visit stateside every other year, alternating with them heading back to visit Ireland.

As for what they miss about Ireland, Shane said it’s been tough to find people in America who understand his Irish sense of sarcasm. There’s that, and a good pint of Guinness.

“There’s a place not far from where Rachael’s family lives. It’s the best (pint),” he said.

For tickets and more information about Pretty Woman, see https://www.broadwayinchicago.com/shows/pretty-woman/

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