I never heard of the Irish music group Celtic Thunder until their straight-to-DVD concert film “It’s Entertainment!” began showing up as part of PBS’ seemingly endless fundraising efforts. I can’t say why PBS would keep broadcasting this production – unless it is a demented blackmail attempt to shakedown money from viewers. (“Give us your cash or else we’ll keep playing this muck over and over and over!”)
Celtic Thunder is a Monkees/Menudo-style prefab group that brings together four young guys and a significantly older chap with a shaved head. “It’s Entertainment!” takes place on a large stage where a raised platform is surrounding by a cheesy reproduction of a park (complete with Astroturf stretches in lieu of grass). For most of the production, each of the Celtic Thunder guys comes out to perform a solo number (I hesitate to use the word “sing”). The older cueball runs around like Speedy Gonzales during his numbers, as if trying to distract attention from his vocal deficits (at one point, he requires both a head microphone and a handheld microphone to amplify his wafer-thin voice). The younger guys punctuate their performances by folding their arms, pouting and batting their eyelashes. Occasionally, some young lady walks apprehensively across the stage while the men are belting out their tunes.
Ensemble pieces are even more embarrassing. A supposedly big dance number surrounding “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” is populated with less-than-threatening hoods wearing dark suits and fedoras; the choreography is somewhere in between half-remembered Bob Fosse numbers and a Guinness-fueled hokey-pokey. And when the Celtic Thunder members finally come together as a group, they sound like third place winners from karaoke night at Mulligan’s Pub.
As for the songs, it appears the playlist was compiled by a group of well-meaning grandmothers or the Guantanamo interrogation corps: soggy ballads to yank mercilessly at the heartstrings, moldy oldies that have been played to death on AM radio and dust-covered relics from the 78 rpm days. One U2 song, the appropriately titled “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” appears to have been inserted by accident.
But who is the audience for this mess? When one of the Celtic Thunder lads begins doing a medley of Beach Boys tunes while two gals in mini-skirts and go-go boots dance the Frug, it doesn’t appear that today’s youth is being targeted. The front rows of concert’s audience are conspicuously overstuffed with photogenic young ladies who are shown eyeballing the performers with the same mix of rue and lust that one associates with a glutton admiring a steak, but behind them is a small army of plump matrons who watch the proceedings with smug satisfaction.
Celtic Thunder is supposedly very popular. Then again, so is Tommy Wiseau. Obviously, today it requires much less than talent and artistic skills to get an audience.