From falling asleep on stage at university to playing the lead role in the iconic Stephen Sondheim’s Company The Musical, at The Grand Opera House, v
Larne born Mark’s role as the hapless, comedic Robert sees him observe the world of married couples as a bachelor in the LSFX Production of the show that is packed with singalong tracks and witty observations.
First unleashed on the world in 1970 Company showcased Sondheim’s comedic take on the evolving nature of relationships amongst the Baby Boomer generation, as the Hippy movement was challenging traditional marital status.
For Mark, who now lives in Belfast, it is a role he relishes: “Robert is the eternal bachelor, who has three girlfriends and too many married friends who try to get him to settle down. Bobby is happy being the third wheel and doesn’t take life too seriously.
“He’s a happy-go-lucky guy, who puts people at ease and is a solid dependable person for friends, but also a playful and cheeky chappie.”
The IT Recruiter is also a professional choral director, conducting four choirs across Northern Ireland – a long way from snoozing on stage at university.
“I was in a stage adaption of the Screwtape letters, and at the end of the play I am lying under a sheet pretending to be dead while another character has an extended monologue, he explained. “On the final night of the run, I fell asleep, and apparently the first row of people heard some gentle snoring.”
From then Mark’s journey in the industry has been one of consistent progress from singing at weddings and charity shows then moving into opera production and conducting.
Appearing in Company will be his debut musical theatre production, and he will be celebrating his 30th birthday on the third night of the run at the Opera House, which runs from May 1st to 4th.
It is Mark’s first lead role, having worked with NI Opera in their season chorus for six years, and he is looking forward to some of the songs that are the trademark of Sondheim’s work.
“My favourite song to sing in the show is actually not the big one, ‘Being Alive’ but ‘Marry Me A Little’, because it’s a turning point in the show for Bobby where his resolve starts to crack, and you start to see what’s going on under the bonnet.”
And to appear as a lead in Belfast’s premier venue..“I really love the Opera House as a venue, it’s so grand and opulent,” he said. “Ever since I first performed there, I’ve always dreamed of having the lead dressing room.
“I never imagined I’d ever actually be there, so I’m massively excited about that!
Darren Gardiner of LSFX Productions said Company was a show he had longed to bring to the Belfast stage.
“When Sondheim released it, Company confronted so many assumptions about what was considered the norm in America at the time with his typical aplomb,” he said. “To shake up the middle classes in the United States he used wit and music.
“And, the messages still hold true today. I’m sure that all our cast, under the direction of James, will bring the production values of the West End to the Opera House stage.”
Director James Huish, whose previous sell-out Les Miserables show in 2016 at the Great Victoria Street venue earned critical acclaim, is determined to showcase the many facets of Company.
“On one level we follow the 35-year-old Robert as he ponders whether to be happy alone or try to conform and find a romantic partner,” said James. “On another level Sondheim challenges what we understand about the traditions that we take for granted.
“Working with Mark to develop ‘Robert’ has been a brilliant and yet easy journey as he really understands the many faces of the role. He brings a youthful freshness to his acting by being very real. I love his innocence and believability in the character we have developed.
“But above all, no matter what messages you take from it, Company is great fun with great songs.”
Including ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’, ‘Side by Side, by Side’ and ‘Sorry – Grateful’ all the tracks will be familiar, but all are woven into the contemplative life of Robert with the mishaps and mayhem of himself and the anarchic relationships of his friends.
As he watches their increasingly strange ways of surviving marriage the comedy levels all out in the madcap world that Robert is a part of.
More information – including how to book tickets – can be found at: https://www.goh.co.uk/whats-on/companythemusical/