With a lead role in the pop biography Taboo at 21 Declan Bennett’s career in musical theatre started at an early age. He played Roger in Rent both on tour in the US and on Broadway and appeared in the original cast of Green Day’s American Idiot on Broadway.
Being a singer songwriter Declan writes music with gripping, reflective lyrics. His album “An Innocent Evening Of Drinking” was released in 2008. His latest album “record: BREAKUP” is out now.
Declan has returned to the UK stage to play the part of Guy in the Tony Award winning musical Once. He kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the show, his career and what it’s like to be back on stage in the UK.
Once is currently in previews at the Phoenix Theatre in London after playing in Dublin for 2 weeks. What has your journey with the show been like so far?
Its been great, demanding, lovely, tough, tiring, a good laugh and extremely challenging. I moved back to London from New York for the production and I started rehearsals the day after I landed so I feel like I’m only just adjusting to British life once again.
It has been a while since you have appeared in the West End. How does it feel to be back?
Feels lovely. I’ve been waiting for something to bring me home and this couldn’t be more perfect. I love New York and I love living there. But London feels like home. And to be back in the West End, particularly when there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening here this year feels great.
Once is presented as a musical. Personally I would call it a play with music. How would you describe the show to someone who knew nothing about it?
I agree. It’s a play about music. It’s not your average play and it’s not your average musical. It sits in this quiet little corner on its own not trying to be anything it isn’t and not shouting too loud about itself.
Being a singer-songwriter yourself, how far can you relate to Guy?
The similarities are almost embarrassing. Haha. It’s a role that I identify with very strongly for a lot of reasons. But there’s a healthy distance between us which is also important!
Doing the show eight times a week is vocally demanding. Are any of the songs particularly hard to sing? How do you keep your voice in good shape?
Living like a bloody nun….Who has the odd whiskey every now and again. This is without a doubt the most vocally challenging experience I’ve ever had. When I first started on the role, songs like “Leave” and “Say it to me now” felt like these uphill climbs that I was unsure I could reach the top of. So I made it my absolute priority to learn about my voice and how to get the most out of it. I started singing when I was 14. I am finally learning how to sing at 32.
You released your latest album in 2011 and have done gigs in the USA last year. Are you planning any gigs while you are in London?
Yes I am. I’m releasing a live album shortly and a new album towards the end of the year. Once we’re officially open I’ll start doing some gigs around the UK. I can’t wait for that.
Would you like to do more theatre in the future or would you prefer to concentrate on your own music?
I want to keep working on creative projects that stimulate me and make me jazzed to get up in the morning. Whatever form that takes doesn’t matter. I’m currently writing songs like a maniac which is good and I’m working on a solo performance art piece that blends live gig and theatre based on my 2nd album “An Innocent Evening of Drinking”. It’s keeping my creative juices flowing.
Why should people come to see Once?
Because it will sit you down, put its arms around you and remind you what it feels like to be alive.
Follow Declan on Twitter @thisainttherapy