Oscar E Moore

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SING STREET – Beyond the sea Off-Broadway at NYTW

December 24th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore

Were they just lazy or simply in a rush to adapt John Carney’s 2016 motion picture “Sing Street” into a stage musical that has just floated into the New York Theatre Workshop on East 4th Street via the Irish Sea?  Both Mr. Carney and Enda Walsh (book) – were partially responsible for the huge success of ONCE.

But being connected to ONCE is not enough.  This production is a good first draft.  There’s lots to develop here.  It’s just not there – yet.  Can it be salvaged?

Even with the fine director Rebecca Taichman helming the musical, whose credentials are superb, it seems that there are two shows at odds with one another.  The plot is scattered and unfocused.  The characters sketched in.  Act I about the formation of the band.  Act II (the better act) focusing on the back story of the family and the developing love between the two leads.

It somehow falls short and is disappointing.   Despite some catchy tunes and excellent portrayals.  Especially Brenock O’Connor who is the frustrated 19 year old musically inclined rebel living with his family in a depressed Dublin circa 1982.  He is Conor.  He is adorable.  And wildly talented.

Forced to leave his private school because of the economy he is bullied by an abusive, arrogant, chain smoking Christian Brother on Synge Street who has this rule of wearing only black shoes in the all boy’s school.  And poor Conor has only a pair of brown shoes.  This so infuriates Brother Baxter (Martin Moran) that we wonder why he just doesn’t supply Conor with the requisite black shoes.  Much stage time is wasted on this detail.

Conor notices Raphina (a bland Zara Devlin) as she awaits a phone call from her older boyfriend at a pay phone seductively posing for Conor with bright red dark glasses.  He is immediately infatuated with her.  He asks her to be in a music video with his band even though it does not yet exist.  And writes a song in his notebook and faster than you can say Blarney Stone we see the formation of the band and her involvement.

The band members, conveniently from school, are an odd assortment right out of central casting and SCHOOL OF ROCK with outfits and makeup to match.  They play the instruments that hang on the side walls.  Exceptionally well.  The drums roll on.  On a set piece.  Everything is on wheels.  Even the video cam is attached to a double skateboard.

Director Taichman and choreographer Sonya Tayeh keep up a frenetic pace.  Although there are some poignant quiet moments.

Meanwhile Conor’s sister Anne (Skyler Volpe) who wants to be an architect like her now unemployed dad Robert (Billy Carter) sulks and fumes.  Older brother Brendan (Gus Halper) dispenses his pot infused advice while getting stoned – having given up; opting to sleep his life away as his mom Penny (Amy Warren) argues with dad, drinks lots of wine and has an affair.

As our two would be lovers kiss at the end of Act I we wonder where this is all going.

Act II fares much better and we get to know these characters and their desires.  Breathing space at last.

All this on a bare stage with the dark and gloomy omnipresent Irish Sea projected on the back wall (Bob Crowley) – the sea that has isolated them all and yet could be their route to freedom – and the fulfillment of their dreams beyond the confining and dreary sea.

There is a long awaited uplifting ending “GO NOW” that sort of erases much of the lesser aspects of the production.

A video of the film is supposedly available for free at IMDBTV.  I hear it is far superior to the stage presentation.

2 hours 15 minutes One Intermission.  Through January 26, 2020


Photos:  Matthew Murray

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