Rebecca Taichman was scrolling through movie options at home when she landed upon Sing Street, John Carney’s Dublin-set story of a 16-year-old who starts a band in a quest for love and to escape the realities haunting Ireland in the early 1980s. “There aren’t that many pieces of art that pierce me like this film did—to the bone,” recalls the Tony-winning director. “As the credits rolled, I wrote immediately to my agent—still tear-soaked—hoping the rights might be available.”
What happened next happened very quickly. A meeting was set up between Taichman and the rights holder, producer Barbara Broccoli. Next, Taichman flew to Dublin to meet Carney, and they spent four days walking around the city, getting to know one another, and discussing a potential stage adaptation. “Of course we needed, above all, John’s blessing,” Taichman says. “At the end of my visit he said: ‘It’s yours.’”
And though Taichman points to the “tremendous joy and positivity” in the story, she also points out the undercurrents of grief and melancholy. “The story is full of longing—tremendous longing—and reminds us that life can batter you down, and then lift you right back up. It leans ever into the complexities of life… how great happiness and tremendous sadness go hand in hand.
“It’s also about a deeply and systemically broken place. Sing Street fights to believe that it’s possible to meet struggle with courage… Of course it’s not a direct parallel to what we’re going through now in the United States, but we can relate to living in deeply troubling and broken times. In many ways, the story feels very personal.”
One of the ways in which Sing Street’s young people find courage is through music. The film’s New Wave score, a sound that immediately and profoundly launched Taichman into her youth, was another point of connection for the director.
After Taichman’s trip to Ireland, Tony-winning playwright Enda Walsh (with whom Carney wrote Once) came on as a book writer, Gary Clark was tapped to write lyrics, and Moulin Rouge!’s Sonya Tayeh joined as choreographer. With this all-star creative team, led by Taichman, the musical adaptation of Sing Street debuts at New York Theatre Workshop. Though it all started watching a film on her sofa, for Taichman, none of it would be possible without Carney’s blessing.
“I think he must have felt how much I cared about his story,” Taichman says. “He must have known I would take loving care of it.”