There are sonic pleasures aplenty for fans of pop’s new wave in Sing Street, a stage adaptation of John Carney’s 2016 film set in 1980s Dublin.
With original tunes by Carney and Gary Clark, plus hits from Depeche Mode and Duran Duran, this endearing tale of disaffected youth in revolt plays on nostalgia like a dexterous pianist on a synth. The scope of its story (adapted here by Enda Walsh) can feel a bit thin for a conventional stage musical, but the spirit of Sing Street is nearly impossible to resist.
When a mop-topped boy (Brenock O’Connor) of not quite 17, meets a slightly older and much hipper girl (Zara Devlin), he offers her a role in his music video. Now he’s just got to form a band and write a song for them to shoot. His older brother (a standout performance by Gus Halper) is an expert music mentor, and it could be argued the musical’s true love story belongs to them.
Set in an Ireland on the brink of economic despair, Sing Street posits music as a means of escape. The grey seaside horizon of Bob Crowley’s sparse set glows with colour during music numbers animated by the restlessness of big dreams. In the face of threadbare prospects at home, London looms full of hope across the water.
Director Rebecca Taichman’s fluid, streamlined direction mostly smooths over the narrative shortcomings — the flat villainy of the Catholic school father (Martin Moran), parental discord that arrives too abruptly — and foregrounds the band’s infectious and delightful jam sessions. Lined up like so many “rock-n-roll exotic birds”, Sing Street (as the band is also called) exudes a riotous, soaring joy.