Brotherly love: Declan guest of honour as singing sensation Mark makes stage debut
YouTube singing sensation Mark McMullan has Louis Walsh and Emmerdale cast members on the VIP list for his starring role in Sunset Boulevard - but the guest of honour at the Grand Opera House next month will be his disabled brother Declan.
Mark landed the role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical after an online video of him singing to Declan the Les Miserables song Bring Him Home took the world by storm. All profits from the St Patrick's Choral Society production are going to the charity project Stuck For Words, which was set up to help several charities including CRY, Brain Injury Matters and suicide prevention charity Mind Your Mate & Yourself.
"Louis is busy organising Ireland's Got Talent at the minute but he's going to try to make it," said Mark from Crossgar. "We've also invited Andrew Lloyd Webber and some of the Emmerdale cast. Declan's a big fan and they've stayed in close contact with him, sending gift packs and messages. He's really looking forward to the opening night."
Declan became a victim of an underlying cardiac condition, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which caused him to have a coronary in March 2012.
His father John is trained in first aid and provided CPR until the emergency services arrived at the scene.
Unfortunately, due to oxygen starvation Declan suffered severe brain damage and has been left with locked in syndrome, which means he is fully cognitive but can't communicate.
His story has touched many hearts and Declan and his father were recently nominated for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards.
Said Mark: "Declan's getting on as well as can be expected. He's aware of everything that's going on and he's excited by it.
"He has his art classes and the Brain Injury Matters charity takes him out on Monday. The YouTube exposure has given him a sense of independence - people communicating with him directly, rather than through us - and that has helped his self-esteem.
"He hasn't changed mentally, just physically. I do miss the person he was, physically, a lot, in terms of the activities we did together, but you strive to find alternatives. I take him out for walks and to the shops. He loves getting recognised."
Mark's now famous rendition of Bring Him Home generated more than 1,000,000 views online.
He and Declan went on to appear on the Nolan Show Live and The Late Late Show, which helped raise awareness of brain injuries.
After the YouTube video went viral Mark was publicly acknowledged by Walsh, Russell Crowe, Alfie Boe and Gary Lightbody, among many others, as a rising star.
Overwhelmed with the support shown to the family, Johnset up Stuck For Words to help give something back.
"There are hundreds of others like Declan out there and funds raised from Sunset Boulevard will help them get screened and tested," added Mark, a part-time waiter.
"I'm also hoping to get a charity CD out for Christmas with some special collaborators I can't mention at the minute.
"Other than that, I'm continuing with my architecture degree and plan to work in a practice some day."
Despite his friendship with Walsh, Mark has no plans to appear on Ireland's got Talent, or any other TV talent show.
"I'm a fan but it's not the right time for me," he said. "With the studying and the cafe and Sunset Boulevard, I'm far too busy."
A timeless classic, Sunset Boulevard is being produced by St Patrick's Choral Society and the Declan McMullan Fund in aid of the Stuck For Words campaign and co-stars award winning singer Fiona Keegan in the famous role of Norma Desmond.
Winner of seven Tony awards, including best musical, this lush and sweeping tale of Hollywood's darker side features one of Lloyd Webber's best scores, including the hit songs With One Look, As If We Never Said Goodbye' the title number and the number one hit The Perfect Year.
The show runs in the Grand Opera House from Wednesday October 7 to Saturday October 10.