Oscar Conlon-Morrey: Desert Island Sondheim
Oscar Conlon-Morrey's performance as Adolfo Pirelli at the 2017 finals of the Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year and Stiles+Drewe Prize wowed the judges to such an extent that Society patron Julia McKenzie insisted on awarding him an impromptu prize for best comedy performance. Digging into her own purse, Julia funded the prize herself, and since then Oscar has been rarely off the stage.
The Mountview graduate is soon to be taking on the role of Simeon/Baker in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (Kilworth House), and previous shows have included The Toxic Avenger (The Arts Theatre and Edinburgh Fringe), Just Another Love Story (Above The Arts) and Not A Day Goes By (The Tabard). He has also appeared twice at The Stephen Sondheim Society Presents... cabaret at the Phoenix Artist Club, and works extensively as a cabaret host, compère and stand-up comedian, hosting bilingual concerts and revues both in London and Limoges, France where he runs an Antiques shop.
His next foray on to the stage will be this weekend at the Savoy, where he will be reprising his prize-winning "Contest" in this year's SSSSPOTY competition. Tickets are still available so don't miss your chance to hear this remarkable talent in action – book now!
1. What are your three favourite Sondheim songs and why?
"Losing My Mind" (Follies)
I remember so vividly the first time I watched what has become known as 'The Red Dress Concert' for Sondheim's 80th. I recall having just been rejected by the person I had assumed, at the tender age of 17, would be the love of my life. I must have replayed Marin Mazzie at least 100 times that night, as I sank into a bubble-bath of adolescent despair with a bottle of Malbec and a tub of Tesco's own-brand vanilla ice-cream. I adore this song. For me, it encapsulates all the light, shade and painful mundanity of being in love and how impossibly heart-breaking it is when that love is unrequited.
"Move On" (Sunday in the Park with George)
I had the immense fortune to duet this stunning song with undoubtedly the best female voice alive today, the inimitable Rebecca Trehearn at a concert organised by the equally talented Alex Young last month. Sunday is without question or doubt my favourite Sondheim and Move On just has the power to move me beyond words.
"Sunday (Reprise)" (Sunday in the Park with George )
I believe there are songs you take through your life as your own personal timeline soundtrack. Sunday is the song that provides the most nostalgia for my three years training at Mountview with the best human beings I could ever hope to meet, under the tuition of the most inspiring teachers. I first sang Sunday with a Mountview cohort to open the Curtain-Up Exhibition at The V&A Museum and hearing our voices blend and fill that kind of space was awe-inspiring. The song stayed with us all right to the end of our training and we opened our final 3rd year industry showcase with it – and how the tears fell! The vocal arrangement is an example of some of the best in Sondheim's canon and I am forever grateful to him for it.
2. What is your favourite Sondheim song to perform and why?
The Contest (Sweeney Todd)
"Sondheim is the master of patter and there is no greater example than 'The Contest' from Sweeney Todd. I played Adolfo Pirelli in a production of Sweeney at the Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre in 2013 and fell in love with the show. 'The Contest' offers a unique challenge: not only is it wordy and in a foreign accent, it requires precise and dextrous comedy timing to land every beat. The top C's are a screech too high for this baritone so I tend to cheat that a little. Shush! Don't tell Stephen!
3. What Sondheim role would you most like to play and why?
There are too many to list! I'd have to say:
• George in Sunday in the Park with George
• Sweeney in Sweeney Todd
• The Witch in Into The Woods
• Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd
4. What Sondheim lyric do you carry with you in your life?
"Just keep moving on,
Anything you do,
Let it come from you,
Then it will be new.
Give us more to see."
["Move On", Sunday in the Park with George]
5. What has Sondheim brought to your life and career, so far?
Sondheim has given a voice to those moments in my life that I simply couldn’t articulate. He has taught me empathy and love, for which I am forever grateful. It is through my adoration for his work that I applied for SSSSPOTY last year and went on to win a special prize from Julia McKenzie, and as a result of that exposure, I have gone on to work extensively with people within the Sondheim world and beyond and I have relished every moment. Thank you to the Society and thank you to Mr Sondheim for your phenomenal work, which brings joy to my life every day.