Mark Irwin has landed a major role in West End musical hit The Commitments. The 24-year-old from Clonmore starts full rehearsals this week and is to appear on stage at London’s Palace Theatre in a month.
He has been cast in the ‘swing’ set, meaning he will be playing multiple roles throughout the musical, which made its West End debut last year.
“It’s just the most bizarre feeling in the world,” Mark told the Westmeath Examiner when he received the news. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed about and now that it’s happened it’s just so surreal.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet but I’m sure I’ll be well able for it.”
A prominent player in the Mullingar Arts Centre, Mark trained in The London School of Musical Theatre, and was the first person to receive a full scholarship to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London’s School of Musical Theatre.
“I auditioned for The Commitments last September and made it to the final two. Unfortunately I didn’t get in. Then they called me over for another audition last week, and rang me the following day to say I’d got it. So it’s nice to get in this time!”
Having already met the full cast and company, he says he has been made feel right at home, given that two thirds of the ensemble are Irish: “It’s nice to be surrounded by our own,” he adds.
Last Friday he made an appearance in a small way on The Palace stage but he won’t be making his full debut for a few weeks. And as you can imagine, his rehearsal schedule is gruelling.
“It’s pretty much all-day rehearsals from here on in. Then at night, I either watch the show and take notes, or I’ll be appearing in little bits to get used to it.”
Mark first took an interest in performing and singing at the age of seven when he attended St Kenny NS. Ann Caulfield entered him in the Cathedral Boys choir with Brother Crummey, and he continued with that for nine years. During that time he started private singing lessons with Dervla Conlon-Malone, and went on to win the Feis Ceol Tenor Solo. Mark says he owes a lot to his former teacher for bringing on his voice to where it is today.
Mark also attributes much of his success to the people at Mullingar Arts Centre, where he starred in Les Miserable, at 14. From there parts in West Side Story, Fame, as well as playing Prince Charming in Mullingar Panto Group’s Aladdin followed.
“I’ve done shows in the arts centre for years and that’s where I met most of my friends. And we’ve all have stayed friends since. It’s a great place and it’s down to Sean Lynch (director) and Angie Lynch (musical director) doing such a great job down there. I hope it keeps going for a long time to come.”
In the meantime, you can catch Mark in Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, at London’s Palace Theatre.
By Olga Aughey