Director Rebecca Taichman and book writer Enda Walsh share details on bringing the music-driven, '80s-set film to the stage.

By Maureen Lee Lenker
February 20, 2020 at 03:30 PM EST

Sing Street (musical)

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When director Rebecca Taichman saw Sing Street when it debuted on screens in 2016, she wrote her agent while the credits were still rolling, tears streaming down her face, to see if the stage rights were available. “I was just profoundly moved by it. It seared me,” she tells EW. “I wrote my agent saying, ‘If the rights are available, I would do anything.'”

She got her wish, and Sing Street in stage musical form premiered at New York Theatre Workshop last fall, getting the bump to Broadway this spring. The story follows Conor, a teenager in 1980s Dublin, as he forms the titular band in order to impress a girl and finds a purpose and friendships along the way.

The team behind Sing Street is driving like they stole it to Broadway, with a pack of original songs from Gary Clark and John Carney, who wrote and directed the film, as well as a book from Enda Walsh, who previously adapted Carney’s Once for the stage.

In contrast to Taichman, Walsh wasn’t an early acolyte of the film, but after being approached by producer Barbara Broccoli was convinced to sign on by his 12-year-old daughter, who loved it. For him, growing up in suburban Dublin, he found many parallels to his own life in the story.

It left them both with a unique challenge. For Taichman, it was separating herself from her all-consuming passion for the original movie. “The biggest challenge for me is the depth of my love for the film,” she explains. “There’s a process of taking what you know works on film and turning that into a theatrical experience. How do you take something that you love so much in one form and make it soar in another form without losing the heart and soul of it as it exists in the film? My deep, deep, deep love for it is both a gift and a challenge.”

Walsh’s conflict lay more in turning a notoriously tacky era into a piece of art. “How do we actually make this poetic?” he asks. “How do we make something as gauche and ridiculous as the 1980s feel like a piece of poetry?”

The answer came, fittingly, through two prime musical formats of the era — the mix-tape and the music video. “It feels like a mix-tape,” Walsh says of the structure and score. “We’re not as tied down as some musicals are where the lyrics are literally moving the piece forward. In this, the energy and the expression of the song is what actually moves us forward. It feels like those tapes moving them through various atmospheres and tonalities.”

Taichman echoes that, noting the unique possibilities of musical storytelling onstage. “The piece is about finding beauty in a really brutal situation through music,” she reflects. “The actors all create a through-score for the piece [that] is a whole other layer that would never exist, that wouldn’t make sense in the film. But it really is a beautiful organizing principle for us.”

Then, there’s the music video, which both Taichman and Walsh stress will play an even bigger role in the Broadway production through projections and more. “[In the show], it’s Brendan who says, it’s a perfect art form — it’s short; it blends music and imagery; it’s right to the point; it’s wildly imaginative,” she explains. “We really want to celebrate that art form and share it more directly.”

Another way of doing so is using it as promotional material, as seen in the video above, showcasing one of the show’s signature numbers, “Up.”

The video is a bit of a full-circle moment for Sing Street, combining its original film format and the ethos of the videos in the movie with its theatrical staging. “That just puts the whole world into that one video in a [way that’s] very poetic and deeply authentic to what we created,” she gushes. “The process of discovering what the vocabulary is for these kids making videos exists on several levels now — in the original film, in this video, and in the production. It’s going to exist in a wonderfully surreal way on stage now, so it’s just beautifully iterative.”

Sing Street begins Broadway previews on March 26, with opening night set for April 19. The original Broadway cast album also drops March 26, and is available for pre-order now.

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Sing Street (musical)

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