Interview with Sing Street star Brenock O'Connor
As we await the Broadway premiere of Sing Street, the new stage musical based on the 2016 film of the same name, we caught up with the show's leading man Brenock O'Connor.
Sing Street marks the Broadway debut for the gifted young Brit, who will celebrate his 20th Birthday next month. But millions and millions of fans around the world will recognize his face thanks to his TV role as Olly on the fantasy juggernaut that is HBO's "Game of Thrones."
Like many young actors, Brenock's roots lie in the theater, so this starring role as Conor Lawlor could be considered a homecoming of sorts... although the bright lights of Broadway are about as far from Brenock's quiet, seaside hometown of Worthing, England, as you can get. Following the musical's Off-Broadway run at New York Theatre Workshop from November 2019 through January of this year, Brenock now has his sights set on the Lyceum Theatre on the Great White Way...
We will, of course, keep you updated as soon as more information becomes available for the rescheduled first preview and official opening dates for Sing Street...
As a youngster, you were involved in regional theatre productions in the UK and before your appearances on “Game of Thrones,” you even played The Artful Dodger in the UK tour of Oliver! alongside the likes of Samantha Barks. Would you say theatre was your first love?
I think it’s most actors' first love. It’s the most easily accessible form of art for kids to get interested in. It was engrained in the school system when I grew up so I just naturally fell into it. I’m so happy to be back working in theatre again.
Did it prepare you in any way for what was to come with your run as Olly on “Game of Thrones”?
Nothing could have prepared me for "Game of Thrones." It’s a show unlike any other. It was a whirlwind from start to finish and I’m so glad I got taken along for the ride. It is the greatest gift of my career.
How did you first get involved with Sing Street and what appealed to you about the project?
I auditioned for a two week workshop of a new musical in London in 2018. At the time, it was all very hush hush. We weren’t allowed to reveal what show we were working on. I did the workshop and loved the piece but never thought I’d receive a call almost 6 months later asking me to do another workshop and an Off-Broadway run. The piece's main appeal to me is its actor-muso quality. The fact that I get to sing and play these glorious songs with such a talented group of people is a thrill. It’s been an honour to see this piece through so many different phases and help it land at its final one.
Were you aware of the musical’s source material; John Carney’s 2016 film? And how has it influenced your own interpretation of Conor?
I’m fully aware of the movie. I love it! It’s gorgeous and subtle and brilliantly crafted. Whenever you take a role that’s been played before, I think it’s important to put your own spin on it. That’s what I hope I’ve done with Conor. I feel I’ve honoured the source material but allowed Conor to live and grow with the new piece of writing.
What were the main rewards and the main challenges during the world premiere run at New York Theatre Workshop?
The main challenges for me, personally, were performing 8 shows a week and moving to a new country. New York is big and bold and brash and terrifying, but I finally feel I’ve reached a level of comfort in this place. The NYTW run was my first experience doing a musical 8 times a week. It’s like you’re an athlete, you’ve got to keep a strict regime and schedule and rest is key. It was so valuable to learn that and I think that’s what I’ll treasure most from this job.
Was a Broadway transfer always on the cards or did it take you by surprise?
The Broadway news blew me away and still does when I catch the reality of it. I’m a working class kid from a seaside town on the south coast of England. I was never meant to be on Broadway. This is one huge glitch in the matrix, but I’m just going to go along with it.
The combination of John Carney and playwright Enda Walsh proved incredibly successful in the past thanks to the 2012 Tony Award-winning ‘Best Musical’ Once. Are you familiar with Once and how would you compare it to Sing Street?
I’m very familiar with both of these gents' work. Enda’s play Chatroom was one of the first pieces I really studied. I never saw Once on stage but I’ve read the play and heard the album and I’m sure it was a hoot. Sing Street just feels more young, fun and a little bit crazy. Exactly what we need right now.
What is the main message of Sing Street and what can audiences expect from the production?
I’d say the main message to take from Sing Street is you can do anything. There will be people who laugh at you, slap you down and try and stop you from being what you want, but if you push hard enough, you can reach contentment.
Sing Street Tickets are available now.