A flurry of trips back and forth from home to Grandma’s garage for props, numerous costume and set changes inside Mom’s car and dozens of iPhone video clips filled Rockville Centre native Colin O’Leary’s days leading up to 2019.
The musical theater fanatic had vowed to complete the sequel to his widely shared YouTube video, “O’Leary Car Ride Showtunes 2018,” before the new year. In the videos, O’Leary, 20, acts and lip-syncs along to Broadway hits in the car while his mother, lifelong village resident Carol O’Leary, keeps a deadpan expression while driving through town.
With more than 250,000 views since it was released in October, the debut video got attention, scoring the mother-son duo an invitation to a live taping of “Will & Grace” last month.
“I didn’t think it was going to get this big at all, where I’d be flown to California,” O’Leary said. “When the first video became a big deal, I was like, ‘I have to do another one,’ so I really went into the second one.”
O’Leary’s love of musical theater was sparked when he watched “The Wizard of Oz” as a child and grew as he acted in shows at the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, the St. Agnes Cathedral School and Kellenberg Memorial High School.
He graduated from St. Agnes in 2012 and from Kellenberg in 2016, and now studies production and set design at Pace University in Manhattan.
Between assisting with Pace’s productions, returning to help with St. Agnes’s plays and working for Merrick Theater, he has created dozens of sets, props and backdrops — and it shows. The “O’Leary Car Ride” videos are productions on wheels. Whether it’s a huge plant puppet for “Little Shop of Horrors,” a colorfully painted backdrop for “The Sound of Music” or a bucket of water taped to the car ceiling for “The Little Mermaid,” O’Leary brings his talents from the stage to the front passenger seat.
“Basically, he comes out of the [house] with a big pile of stuff, opens the car doors and shoves it in,” said Carol, branch manager for Rockville Centre’s Coach Realtors. “It was more hours preparing than actually videotaping.”
Once the scene is set, O’Leary mounts his iPhone to the middle of the dashboard and records in the framing style of late-night television host James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” Meanwhile, his mother’s phone blares the music.
“When we’re performing and doing this, I don’t even know what’s about to happen,” O’Leary said, explaining that he acts on a whim according to the beats and lyrics.
If he is the star of the show, his mother is the supporting actress — her stone-cold performance adding comedic effect to counter and complement the theatrics, depending on the song.
“The big question is, ‘How did you not laugh?’” she said. “I just looked forward and tried not to look at what he was doing.”
O’Leary enlists not only his mother, but also several other family members for the videos, including his grandparents, who live in Oceanside and store many of his sets, props and costumes in their garage.
“I enjoy looking at the videos over and over again because you see something different every time,” said O’Leary’s grandmother, Elaine Corwin. “I hope he continues doing this because I think he has a lot of talent.”
For one scene in the second video, O’Leary rides in a taxi cab in the middle of Times Square, has the cab driver wear Statue of Liberty sunglasses and performs his heart out to “NYC.”
The dozens of clips flip by in a montage of crying, laughing, screaming fun. When O’Leary and his mother visited the set of “Will & Grace,” the show’s producer screened part of their first video to the audience of 250. A few weeks later, on Jan. 1, the second video was published, and it now has nearly 9,000 views on YouTube.
“I enjoy entertainment and making people happy,” O’Leary said. “When you hear people laugh, that’s when you know everything’s good and you’ve succeeded.”
Watch Colin's videos: