The cast members of 'Ralph the Reindeer' from the Junior and Senior Infant classes at St. Colmcille's NS in Ballinahown (back row, l to r): Freddie, Riley, Jessie, Cormac, Aivan, Darragh, Seán, Lilly, Eve and Edward. (front row, l to r): Rían, Jason, Alice, Daniel, Aoife, Bébhinn and Emeli. Photo Paul Molloy.

Fun, games and mayhem as junior classes take to the stage!

In the absence of props, and with a number of key cast members at home with sick tummies, it was left to the energetic teacher of the junior and senior infant classes at St Colmcille's NS in Ballinahown to play multiple roles when rehearsals for the annual Christmas play got underway in advance of two performances in the Tuar Ard Theatre in Moate two weeks ago.

In fact, rehearsals for the play, called 'Ralph the Reindeer' actually began in Ballinahown just after the Halloween break, and diligent teacher Deirdre Farrell said her dutiful charges had rehearsed their little Christmas play “over 100 times” but never on the stage of the big Tuar Ard Theatre.

With bright lights shining down on the enthusiastic cast and a trio of microphones to pick up every sound, it was a surefire recipe for fun and games.

When the third and fourth class teacher, Laura Kelly, who was in charge of the music, pressed the button on came an adorable song called “Tapping Away” which captured the attention of every little one on stage.

They sang with gusto, and tapped with gusto as they pretended to be busy little elves making toys in Santa's workshop to the tuneful words “tapping away, tapping away, we've tapped all night and we've tapped all day. Tapping away, tapping away, we're busy, busy, busy, busy, tapping away.”

A little miniature Santa (Daniel) who was dressed from head to toe in red and sporting a most impressive beard and mustache declared to the audience in a loud voice “Ho, Ho, Ho, Not Long To Go” and was followed by the most angelic little girl (Eve) who confidently delivered a beautiful solo in the sweetest voice about how poor Ralph the reindeer couldn't fly.

As they piled into their imaginary sleigh with Santa at the helm, all the reindeers urged Rudolph to “Please get well soon again” as they sang a song to make him smile.

They magically discovered that the secret to teaching Ralph how to fly was to “Start at Number 10” and there was even a song to prove the theory!

The play finished with a rousing rendition of “Santa Claus is coming to town” complete with the miniature Santa walking back and forth across the stage and waving at the audience – and then it was time for the weary cast to throw off the antlers and elf hats and tuck into the well-earned “treats” that teacher had promised.

With the crucial case member, Rudolph, missing from school on rehearsal day, it was left to teacher Deirdre Farrell to improvise his role which saw her sashaying across the stage shaking her hips and flexing her muscles as she led her young charges in a song about poor Rudolph the reindeer who had caught a cold.

While one child tapped her nose, another examined her antlers, and a third turned her back to the audience and was plotting her escape, Deirdre continued to dance and sing “Rudolph has a cold, sniff snuff, poor old Rudolph is feeling rough” while trying very hard not to dissolve into fits of laughter.

Proving that a teaching job can, and does, involve a multitude of multi-tasking, the young teacher had earlier in the day played the role of a put-upon donkey called Steve when the third and fourth class rehearsals were in full swing. As if that wasn't enough for one day, she was also called upon to perform a number of off-stage roles including acting as a surrogate Mammy to some of the infants who were completely overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of just stepping onto the big stage.

The plot for the junior and senior infants play revolved around a kindly reindeer called Ralph who steps in to save the day when Rudolph gets a cold. The only problem is Ralph can't fly, but can they all work together to save Christmas?

The idea of working together can sometimes be a bit much for very excited four and five year olds, some of whom decided they were just going to do their own thing, regardless of what teacher said! She had even promised “treats for everyone” if they could just give her “one big practice.”

Maybe if they hadn't been wearing elf ears and reindeer antlers they might have been able to concentrate on the task ahead. However, the lure of playing with each other's big elf ears and closely examining their impressive antlers was much more appealing for some of the cast.

Earlier, it was the turn of third and fourth class to rehearse their own Christmas play, 'A Midwife Crisis', which was a thoroughly modern take on the Nativity Play, complete with references to mobile phones and satnav.

The plot centred around a hapless midwife who never misses an important birth and gets extremely excited when she hears that a king is about to be born in Bethlehem. She rushes out in the night to find a shiny golden palace fit for a king. However with the help of some singing angels and a very bright star, the midwife is led to a humble stable where a very special baby already awaits her.