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Paulanne Simmons

“Sing Street” Is the Same Old Song

Max William Bartos & Zara Devlin. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Sing Street
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
79 E. 4th Street
From Nov. 25, 2019
Mon., Thurs. & Sun. 7pm, Fri. &Sat. 8pm. Sat. & Sun. 2pm
Tickets: From $125
Closes Jan. 26, 2020
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 21, 2019

In 2012 the musical, “Once,” opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater after making its off-Broadway debut at New York Theatre Workshop. Based on the 2007 John Carney film of the same name, the musical was about a Dublin street musician who is inspired by a beautiful young woman. It had a book by Enda Walsh and, like the film, music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

The show won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, which meant it lasted another two and a half years on Broadway before closing in January 2015. A modest success, if not exactly anther “Cats” or “Chorus Line.” This season, New York Theatre Workshop hopes to have similar success with an all too similar musical, “Sing Street,” directed by Rebecca Taichman.

“Sing Street” is also adapted from a John Carney film. It also takes place in Dublin (1981), this time at a school. It’s also about a musician inspired by a beautiful young woman. And guess what? It also has a book by Enda Walsh, although this time, the songs are by Gary Clark and Carney.

If you liked the film, you may be happy to see it adapted to stage, although the minimalist production may leave you wondering exactly where the school is located, and where all the teachers and students are hiding. But if you really liked “Once,” you may be happy to see take two. Otherwise there’s not that much to recommend this new film-to-stage offering.

The main difference between “Once” and “Sing Street” is that in “Sing Street” the musicians are teenagers. Love is innocent. And hope does not have to be rekindled because it has not yet been truly stifled. The hero, Conor Lawlor (Brenock O’Connor), has a dysfunctional homelife - his father (Billy Carter) can’t bring in enough money or keep his wife (Amy Warren) in love with him - and a miserable school life since he’s been taken out of public school and put in Catholic school where he’s left to the mercy of the sadistic Brother Baxter (Martin Moran). But he does have the support of his big brother, Brendan (Gus Halper), the encouragement of a young lady, Raphina (Zara Devlin), and soon the companionship of a group of devoted fellow musicians.

When the band performs onstage, the actors play their own instruments. This adds to the show’s authenticity. But it does not make the show exceptional musically. And Clark and Carney’s score doesn’t help much. The songs are generic rock with a ballad or two thrown in. The reprises may keep a few of the songs in your mind until the lights go up and you’re back on the street (E. 4th, not Sing).

The acting is no more compelling than the story. O’Connor is earnest. Halper is morose. Moran is so stereotypically vicious one wishes he had a moustache to twirl. And Zara Devlin almost wears a sign saying “bad girl with a heart of gold.”

There’s nothing terribly wrong with “Sing Street.” But on the other hand, “Once” was enough.

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