The O’Byrnes' musical family affair all began with ’s 2010 rendition of Christmas Carol the Musical. This year's show is being performed this weekend and will be Mathew O’Byrne's second year playing the role of Scrooge, while his two sons, Julian and Sam, play younger Scrooges, and Mrs. O’Byrne works behind stage as co-costume director.
Last fall, having never done any acting before, but having participated in glee club at what was then known as Mt. Tamalpais High School (now called Branson), O’Byrne semi-reluctantly agreed to audition with his two sons and miraculously landed the lead role. After the 2010 show proved to be a complete success, the Stapleton committee convened and asked if O’Byrne would be willing to go it again this year.
The multi-generational experience is unique and one that they take pride in. “To be on stage with family is truly magical,” said O’Byrne. “Everything else is gravy. The way Stapleton brings together family is really special.”
The cast also becomes like a family. Though this likely happens in many theater productions, O’Byrne says, “It is really special with Stapleton.” O’Byrne's best friend, Hal Adler, is also in this year’s production as Cratchet, and last year O'Byrne's wife, now co-costume director, was also in the chorus and played several smaller parts including a cleaning lady in the opening scene, an elf/pixie and a rose seller in the closing scene.
Elder son, Sam, 14, who plays Young Ebenezer and who has been active in theater since the age of 8, discovered his love for the stage with The Marin Theater Company summer production of Tom Sawyer, where he played Fagen. A few years later in a Stapleton production his younger brother, Julian, 11, joined in the fun too. In eighth-grade Sam was asked to partake in the Marin School of the Arts' The Mikado, by Gilbert and Sullivan, because the director knew about his incredible voice and skills as an actor.
Sam now attends the Marin School of the Arts, an incredible audition-only program within Novato High School for the arts that follows the NYU model of teaching. Oliver is one of Sam’s favorite productions and he has had the pleasure of playing Fagen with the Marin Theater Company and The Artful Dodger with Stapleton’s production.
But, he's already looking forward. What would he love to do in the future? “The Book of Mormon, which is on Broadway. It’s hilarious, but not for kids.” He had an amazing experience traveling to New York with his mother last summer where they took in Urinetown, Next to Normal, and, his favorite, Anything Goes with Joel Gray and Sutton Foster in the lead roles.
Sam is already looking for a “fantastic” college program and has sights on UCLA and NYU.
The youngest O'Byrne, Julian plays Scrooge at the age of 12. “It’s kind of fun moving up one,” Julian said, as his brother Sam played the same role last year. Julian had the pleasure of playing a street boy, Jonathan, in 2010.
Julian would also love to be in a production of Urinetown, which is a comedy about a town facing a major drought where “the main character leads a revolution so everyone can pee for free.”
He balances theater, though, with basketball, which has been his main focus since first-grade. He is currently a point guard playing with the AAU league in the summers and CYO during the school year. He is really tall, has excellent dribble skills and is a great shot. Julian attends Miller Creek Middle School in Terra Linda and also participates in some choral singing groups. Basketball season is only just starting, but games and practices are squeezed in between rehearsals for pre-tournament games.
When I asked Julian what is the best thing about being in Stapleton’s Christmas Carol the Musical? “Seeing Dad in his second play doing really well, and being with the family all together.”
Stapleton’s production of the Christmas Carol the Musical will be performed at s Little Theater on Thursday, Dec. 15 and Friday, 16 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 17 and Sunday, Dec. 18 matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets and cost $14 for students and seniors and $20 for adults.