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BWW Blog: College Amidst Coronavirus with Broadway's Sam Poon

Sam Poon on the Broadway shutdown and working on Sing Street, “I miss it a lot but I am happy that I have been using this time to be creative and improve as a musician."

BWW Blog: College Amidst Coronavirus with Broadway's Sam Poon

Sam Poon on the Broadway shutdown and working on Sing Street, "I miss it a lot but I am happy that I have been using this time to be creative and improve as a musician, artist, and human. Whenever we come back it will truly feel magical to have all of those people in the room again. I miss the joys of live music and live theater."

Welcome back to the second installment of College Amidst Coronavirus! Today's guest, Sam Poon, has been performing professionally since the age of nine. He played Gavroche in the twenty-fifth anniversary national tour of Les Miserables, he played Michael in the second national tour of Billy Elliot, he played Macduff's Boy in the 2013 Broadway revival of Macbeth, he was a child swing in the 2015 Broadway revival of The King and I, and when Broadway reopens, he will be starring as Eamon in the Original Broadway Cast of Sing Street. Clearly, booking a Broadway national tour or Broadway show is a piece of cake for Poon.

From acting, singing, dancing, to playing instruments, Poon is a Broadway force to be reckoned with. Currently, Poon, who goes by "Spoon" to his friends, is a nineteen-year-old freshman at the Berklee College of Music Online where he is majoring in Music Production. When asked how he has adapted to taking classes online, Poon shared, "I actually did half of middle school and half of high school online because I was working constantly, so online school is nothing new to me. I enjoy being able to learn at my own pace." Poon describes Berklee College of Music Online as, "[A] combination of lessons, readings, quizzes, projects, and Zoom sessions with your teachers. I really enjoy the layout...I don't feel overwhelmed like I found myself often in high school."

When asked if Poon's plans have changed this semester, or if they have remained the same due to coronavirus, Poon shared, "I actually decided to apply to Berklee [College of Music] Online just a few months ago, but I had been considering it for a while... I had just originally put it off because I was in rehearsals for Sing Street. [In terms of performances during coronavirus] the cast and crew of Sing Street put on a virtual event back in April to raise money for COVID-19 relief, [and] we might have been the first to do something like that."

This semester, Poon is taking four classes: Music Theory Level II, Critical Listening, Developing Your Artistry, and Pro Tools 101. When asked how he balances school with work and auditioning, Poon replied, "I've been doing it since I was about ten, so it [has been] a long learning process... I'd say I'm pretty good at it now. Nowadays, I keep a physical calendar on my bedroom wall to write down anything that I have coming up on my schedule... Since all auditions are self-tapes now, I can just sit down and focus on them whenever they come my way. I have classes all throughout the week, including weekends, and I have been auditioning two to three times a week. I don't feel overwhelmed because I am doing what I love."

BWW Blog: College Amidst Coronavirus with Broadway's Sam PoonTo those unfamiliar with Poon's most recent Broadway gig, Sing Street is a new musical based on John Carney's 2016 Golden Globe-nominated film. As described by Poon, "Set in 80s Dublin, Ireland, Sing Street is about an Irish schoolboy named Conor who transfers to a new school where he starts a band with the hopes of wooing a mysterious girl, Raphina."

Sing Street features a book by Edna Walsh (Lazarus), a score by John Carney and Gary Clark (Begin Again), direction by Rebecca Taichman (Indecent), choreography by Sonya Tayeh (Moulin Rouge! The Musical!), and musical direction by Fred Lassen (Prince of Broadway). Just like life imitates art, for Poon, Sing Street imitated his life: "When me and my girlfriend, Chloe Berry, first met, we would make each other playlists. Now, I produce all [of her music]!"

Poon got involved with Sing Street before its world premiere in the fall of 2019 at off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop.

"Before that, we did a workshop in the summer of 2019. The movie that it's based off of also happens to be my girlfriend's favorite movie, so I already knew the story and music before auditioning." Eamon, the character that Poon portrays, "...is Conor's songwriting partner and closest friend. He is sort of a loner at first, but [he] quickly finds joy in the camaraderie in playing music with a band. I actually really relate to Eamon because working on Sing Street was my first time consistently playing and rehearsing with a band, so it was a huge learning curve for me...I came into the process very intimidated musically. However, over a period of time, I definitely...started to blossom into a more confident and better skilled musician."

Having performed in four Broadway shows prior to Sing Street, Poon realizes the differences from Les Miserables, Billy Elliot, Macbeth, and The King and I to Sing Street: "Sing Street is different from each of these experiences for many reasons. The first is that it is the first project that I embarked on as a legal adult; when I was [previously] on tour and on Broadway, I was ten to fourteen, so I had to have a tutor and a child wrangler. Secondly, the two Broadway shows that I did were both at Lincoln Center in the Vivian Beaumont Theater, so this will be my first time performing in a non-Lincoln Center Broadway theater. Thirdly, in Sing Street, almost all of the actors play instruments on stage. In fact, there is no orchestra; we play everything live. This was a new learning curve for almost all of us. Luckily, a few members of the cast and crew have done these actor-musician shows before, so we had guidance."

While Poon can be heard on the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Sing Street playing the keyboard, bass, and electric guitar, he can also be heard under the alias "Spoonuel."

According to Spotify, Poon's music has been streamed over twenty-five thousand times in seventy-two countries. "I write, produce, record, and mix my own music from my apartment", says Poon. "I released 'B With Me', 'A Manic Hello', 'Pull Me', and 'Now's the Time' as singles this year, just to give everyone a little taste of my sound and what's to come. 'A Manic Hello' was written by me when I was fifteen and 'B With M' when I was seventeen. 'Pull Me' was produced by [my] longtime friend Owen Ragland, and 'Now's the Time' features his older brother, rapper Wes Grey. There are music videos for 'Now's the Time' and 'B With Me'!"

Sing Street was originally scheduled to begin previews on March 26 and open on April 19th at the Lyceum Theater, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show has been postponed until Winter 2021-2022 at a soon-to-be announced Shubert Theater. "We were literally in the first day of tech at the theater," Poon says of the time he learned the show would be put on hold. "We got to sound check a few of the songs, and then our producer called us all to the stage for the announcement that everything was shutting down. I am grateful we got to enjoy a long, extended off-Broadway run at New York Theatre Workshop."

Fortunately, until Sing Street plays its first performances on a Broadway stage, fans of the musical can enjoy the Original Broadway Cast album, as well as Spoonuel's music at https://streamlink.to/spoonuel. "Working on Sing Street made me a sharper actor, mover, musician, ensemble member, and more. It reaffirmed my love for shows about music, and if anything, [it] led me to where I am now, finishing up my first semester of classes at Berklee Online!"




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From This Author Student Blogger: Kyle Morales