On ‘Sing Street,’ a teen finds both love and music
By Rich Fahey
BOSTON – The pretty girl/model necessary for the all-important music video was all set. Now all he needed was a band.
Conor Lawlor (Adam Bregman) is on a quest to first find a band and then find in himself the music that will give him refuge from his troubled life in the new musical “Sing Street,” now being presented by The Huntington at the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts through Oct. 9.
“Sing Street” is based on the 2016 indie movie of the same title by John Carney. It had one off-Broadway workshop run in 2019 and was all set to open on Broadway in 2020 when the pandemic hit; now it hopes for life on Broadway after this run.
The bright, smart score is by Carney and Gary Clark, a former front man for the band Danny Wilson, combines with a funny, soulful book by Enda Walsh to allow the youthful talent to explode onto the stage of the Wimberly Theater. The actors play all the instruments and perform all the musical numbers as they lift both Conor and each other to lofty musical heights, making a group of misfits a cohesive unit.
It is 1982 in Dublin and the Irish economy has many seeking bluer skies and greener grass elsewhere. The Lawlor family is feeling the pain, as architect father Robert (Billy Carter) can find little to do as the economy has brought the building industry to a standstill.
Robert and wife Penny (Dee Roscioli) are constantly cutting back. Their bright but troubled son Brendan (a wonderful Donal Finn) has already quit college and retreated to his bedroom, where he watches TV and is high almost all of the time. Sister Anne (Alexa Xioufaridou Moster) is trying to block out the turmoil while attending to her college studies.
The economics force younger brother Conor, 17, from the fee-paying school he loves to the free Synge Street School, run by the Christian Brothers order, headed by a particularly brutal principal named Brother Baxter (Armand Schultz), who immediately dislikes Conor.
He is also dogged by Barry Bray (Jack DiFalco), the school bully who totes around a bandbox playing heavy metal music.
Conor’s friend Darren Mulvey (Diego Lucano) dares him to approach a beautiful young woman named Raphina (Courtnee Carter), who has a mysterious background that includes making all of her phone calls from a phone booth.
She tells Conor she is a model and Conor asks her to be part of a music video to promote his band, managed by – unbeknownst to himself – by Mulvey, who proves to be a problem-solver of the first order as well as a first-class videographer.
One by one, the pieces of the band come together: Conor as songwriter and vocalist, joined by Anthony Genovesi as Declan, the band’s strong-and-silent percussionist, and Michael Lepore as Gary, Elijah Lyons as Larry, and Gian Perez as Kevin.
Anne L. Nathan has a fine turn as warm-hearted Sandra, the thoughtful mother of band member Eamon (Ben Wang), the pianist struggling to fit at school and lives in fear of a largely absent father. She allows the band to practice in her home.
The Carney/Clark score includes the numbers “Up,” and “Dream for You,” the musical’s two signature tunes, as well as “Drive it Like You Stole It” and “The Riddle of the Model,” all largely odes to such iconic 1980s bands as Duran Duran, The Cure and Depeche Mode.
With a cast of 15 and 16 working backstage, “Sing Street” is the largest show the Huntington has ever staged in the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts over the Calderwood’s 18-year history. The Huntington will return to the roomier, renovated mainstage Huntington Avenue Theater next month.
The budding romance between Raphina, whose past is scarred and tragic, and Conor will have you wondering: Can he have both his music and the girl?
Then there’s Brendan’s struggle to move on with his life after his parents crushed his dream of going to London, and the Lawlor family’s internal problems that darken all of the family members’ outlook on life.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a band movie without the band fracturing and breaking at some point, only to find common ground again.
The Huntington has brought world-class talent to the Calderwood to help propel “Sing Street” onto Broadway. Tony-winning director Rebecca Taichman successfully balances the more melodramatic aspects of the Walsh book with the upbeat vibe set by the musical numbers, which feature lively choreography by Sonya Tayeh.
Luke Halis and Brad Peterson contribute en pointe projections as part of their video design, the projections and background videos melding seamlessly with Bob Crowley’s set design, Natasha Katz’s lighting, and costumes by Crowley and Lisa Zinni establishing a time, place and distinctive 1980s vibe that permeates the production.
“Sing Street” is a tribute to the joy of first love, a clarion call to follow your dreams, wherever they may lead, and a tale told skillfully and joyfully from top to bottom.
The Huntington in association with Sing Street LLC ‘production of “Sing Street.” Based on the 2016 film by John Carney. Music and lyrics by Carney and Gary Clark. Book by Enda Walsh. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. In the Wimberly Theatre of the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts through Oct. 9. Huntingtontheatre.org