A singer who became an internet sensation after a video of him singing to his disabled brother went viral made his stage debut in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Sunset Boulevard.
With a host of celebrities in attendance, Mark McMullan took to the stage at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, but the guest of honour was Mark’s brother Declan.
A video of Mark singing the song ‘Bring Him Home’ from the musical ‘Les Miserables’ to his brother was viewed over one million times and caught the attention of the St Patrick’s Choral Society.
St Patrick’s Choral Society offered Mark a role in their production of Sunset Boulevard.
The video also earned him a celebrity fan base which includes Russell Crowe, music manager and X Factor judge Louis Walsh, Irish rock star Gary Lightbody and cast members from British soap Emmerdale.
Mark told the Belfast Telegraph: “Louis is busy organising Ireland’s Got Talent at the minute but he’s going to try to make it. 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 suffered a heart attack in 2012 due to the cardiac condition Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. He was left with severe brain damage caused by lack of oxygen following the cardiac arrest.
He now has locked in syndrome which means that while his brain is fully cognitive and he is aware of everything going on around him, he is unable to communicate or move his body.
Mark said: “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.”
Their father John is trained in first aid and helped Declan while they waited for emergency services. Their story was recently nominated for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards.
Mark and Declan have also appeared on the Nolan show to raise awareness about brain injuries.
John was overwhelmed by the levels of support shown to his family and set up the charity Stuck for Words, which helps other charities including CRY, Brain Injury Matters and suicide prevention charity Mind Your Mate & Yourself.
Mark said: “There are hundreds of others like Declan out there and funds raised from Sunset Boulevard will help them get screened and tested.
“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.”
Sunset Boulevard will run from 7-10 October at Belfast’s Grand Opera House. All of the profits from the production will go to the charity Stuck For Words. Click here for more information about the Declan McMullan Fund.
Take a look at the original video of Mark singing to Declan that went viral earlier this year.
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