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Off-Broadway Review: “Sing Street” at New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday January 26, 2020)

Off-Broadway Review: “Sing Street” at New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday January 26, 2020)
Book by Edna Walsh
Music and Lyrics by Gary Clark and John Carney
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Quite a few audience members may be familiar with the 2016 film “Sing Street” which the new musical being presented at New York Theatre Workshop is based on and hails by the same name. Playwright Edna Walsh is responsible for transporting the work of John Carney to the stage after being so successful in their first collaboration with the production of “Once,” also derived from a Carney film and originating as an off-Broadway show at the same theatre. This time around director Rebecca Taichman is at the helm and the result is more than satisfying infusing the cast with the emotional depth required to relate the troublesome struggle of coming of age during the 1980’s in depressed Dublin, Ireland. Mr. Walsh shapes the musical into much more than a love story, focusing on the courage to overcome the difficult situations, holding on to dreams for a better life and the power of music to uplift the human spirit.

The plot follows the trials and tribulations of the Lawler family experiencing many obstacles as they maneuver the depression in Dublin and the disintegration of a marriage along with their current lifestyle. Front and center is Conor (a delightful Brenock O’Connor) the youngest child who faces being removed from a private Jesuit school and sent to a Christian Brothers public school in order to cut down on expenses. He is faced with this horrible occurrence and confides in his recluse older brother Brendan (an endearing Gus Halper) who has not left the house since his failed attempt at moving and surviving in London. After a stern altercation with Principal Brother Baxter (a believable Martin Moran) and a run in with the school bully Barry (a convincing Johnny Newcomb), he meets young entrepreneur Darren (a charming Max William Bartos). Along comes Raphina (the intoxicating Zara Devlin) an intriguing misfit who hangs out around the public school and becomes the object of Connor’s affection. Darren helps Connor form a school band so he can win Raphina’s heart letting her star in their homemade music videos. So, the fun begins surrounded by abuse, divorce, depression and deprivation.

Designer Bob Crowley places the action on basically a bare stage with large projections of the Irish Sea, so the focal point becomes the characters and their stories without the distraction of lavish scenery to depict specific location. Then he provides a kaleidoscope of colorful costumes that are believably derived from the imaginations of the schoolboy band and influenced by watching the latest music videos of popular new wave bands of the era. While entertaining and inventive they also become another mechanism to defeat depression and boredom and secure their individuality while battling the establishment. The music and lyrics by Mr. Carney and Gary Clark are the spine of this production providing characters with internal structure that is strong and sound always supporting the action. The infectious beat of the opening number of Depeche Mode’s “I Just Can’t Get Enough” ignites the audience’s memory of techno tunes of the decade and proves the power of music.

The entire cast turns in remarkable performances and creates a brilliant ensemble as most of the actors double as musicians during the course of the musical. Ms. Taichman creates an honest and genuine environment and the choices made to elaborate the emotional core of this story are invigorating, walking the fine line between fantasy and realism. It is a feel-good musical that is neither mawkish nor incredible and strips away extravagance to embellish the fortitude of ordinary people. When the story ends and the lights dim, you may find yourself standing in ovation and having a better understanding of the opening song lyric “I just can’t get enough” because you will leave the theatre wanting more of the musical “Sing Street.”


The cast for “Sing Street” includes Max William Bartos, Brendan C. Callahan, Billy Carter, Zara Devlin, Gus Halper, Jakeim Hart, Martin Moran, Anne L. Nathan, Johnny Newcomb, Brenock O’Connor, Gian Perez, Sam Poon, Skyler Volpe, and Amy Warren.

“Sing Street” features scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind, sound design by Darron L West, and music supervision and orchestrations by Martin Lowe. Fred Lassen serves as music director, Deborah Hecht serves as dialect coach, and Amanda Spooner serves as Stage Manager. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.

“Sing Street” runs at New York Theatre Workshop (79 East 4th Street) through Sunday January 26, 2020. For the full performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.

Photo: Sam Poon, Anthony Genovesi, Jakeim Hart, and Gian Perez in “Sing Street” at NYTW. Credit: Matthew Murphy.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, December 30, 2019