Fair City star Ryan Andrews becomes panto big brother for sisters who lost sibling to cancer

‘Danny would have been exactly the same age as Ryan and they were in shows going back years, Bugsy Malone and shows like that’

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Fair City star Ryan Andrews has been praised for stepping into the shoes of an older brother two young sisters lost to cancer and who was one of the actor’s best friends.

Late Late Toy Show breakout star Ruby Maher (14) and her older sister Robyn (19) are starring with Ryan in the panto in Dublin’s Olympia theatre this Christmas.

Eldest sister Stacey (21) is in a panto in England, where she’s in theatre school.

The three sisters lost their only brother Danny (20) to cancer when he died from the disease nearly 11 years ago.

“Danny would have been exactly the same age as Ryan and they were in shows going back years, Bugsy Malone and shows like that,” explains the sisters’ father Dave.

“The thing is Ryan and Danny were best mates when they were young kids. They started out when they were aged around 10, when they were doing all these shows together.”

Ryan, who plays Sean Cassidy in the hit soap, used regularly hang out in the Maher’s house in Newbridge, Co Kildare.

“He was in the house and he was so good,” recalls Dave (61). “Danny could have been in shows with him still. Ryan loves the girls, Stacey, Robyn and Ruby, because he knows them so well and he’s like a big brother to them.

Ruby Maher

“He is so good to Ruby and Robyn in the panto for the past five years they’ve been with him in the Olympia. They are in the cast, the chorus line. This year they’re doing Ollie Polly and the Beanstalk.”

The Maher family lost Danny to cancer at the age of 20, a musician in his own right who Dave knows would be proud of his three sisters.

The dad-of-four told spoke previously to us about his son’s resilience after he developed a lump on his forearm and on his 18th birthday he got the results of a biopsy and was told he had synovial sarcoma, which is a rare type of cancer that strikes teenagers in particular.

"The thing about Danny was he never threw the head or slammed the doors and said 'why did it happen to me'," said Dave.

“He turned to me one day and said, 'Ah sure Dad if this has to come into our family, I'm glad it was me and not you or Mum, or God forbid one of the girls'."

Dave said they hoped a pet dog would help keep Danny’s mind off chemotherapy.

"The minute he saw her his eyes lit up. We said, 'Danny what do you want to call her?'

"And he thought for a moment and said ‘Chemo! I'll call her Chemo so every time I hear the word chemotherapy, I will think of this beautiful little dog instead of this horrible thing I'm going through.’

"Wasn't that clever of him? It worked and we still have little Chemo to this day running around the house 11 years later."

Ruby grew up watching the Late Late Toy Show with her musical family and was delighted to be picked as one of the star performers.

She wowed with a rendition of Defying Gravity from Wicked on the show, surrounded by dancers and a choir in a performance which was greeted by a standing ovation by the audience.

“Everyone was amazed at how brilliant it was, and how fantastic the whole production it was. It was a full-scale production that you would see in the Eurovision of something,” raves Dave.

He performs as a quartet with the three sisters, and the family were recently flown over to London to audition for a major British TV show, the details of which are being kept under wraps until the New Year.

Stacey and Robyn study in the Laine Theatre Arts School in England, where Victoria ‘Posh Spice’ Beckham and Rita Ora are among past pupils.

“Stacey is after getting her first big show in the UK,” explains Dave. “She is the Princess in the Guildford theatre in Grantham,. Rapunzel. She’s doing three shows a day and it’s sold out

“We can’t get poor Stacey home for Christmas this year though. She is doing two shows on Christmas Eve. She was going to leave the theatre at 4pm but she can’t get home. She’s 21 She is living with a lovely family and will have to celebrate Christmas with them.”

The Maher Family’s first single Lullaby for the World became the anthem of World Earth Day last year, earning them the attention of now-manager Rick Blaskey who is credited with kick-starting the success of Whitney Houston.

Lullaby For the World went to No2 in the Irish download charts and was co-written for the family by renowned songwriter Brendan Graham, who famously penned You Raise Me Up.

"Like Whitney, The Mahers have a genuine likeability factor and a unique persona, story and sound - plus a global market waiting to embrace them," Blaskey said when he signed the band.

Ruby sings lead vocals in the family group, with Dave playing guitar, while Robyn plays piano.

Dave had his own success in the 1970s on hit show Opportunity Knocks with his dad, sisters and brothers when he was 15.

He jokes that his band with his daughters is “the second generation” of Maher families to perform together, with big plans for the future and teenage Ruby.

The young singer was picked by producer when she appeared on The Voice Kids UK, wowing judges with her cover of Shut Up and Dance with Me.

Dave, who is married to former professional dancer Vivienne, says the family will never forget Danny, who Dave got to join his original band when his son was 14. He had been taught to play the guitar from the age of seven.

"He was a fantastic character," recalls Dave. "Everybody that met him, he made an impression on them. I think God just wanted him. He's minding us and he's looking after us on our way."

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