The Theatre Guide
January 23, 2018
The hit Broadway musical Once is now playing at the John W. Engeman Theater. With book by Enda Walsh, and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, Once is the winning recipient of 8 Tony Awards. Directed and choreographed here by Trey Compton, this touching musical will both tug at your heart strings and embolden your courage. Its dual themes are intertwined into a beautiful, seamless whole as it stresses the importance of love, and refuses to let the fear of failure reign.
We begin in a pub in Dublin, and I really do mean “we” as this show does something very different from others you’ve probably attended. Before the official start of the performance the actors (who are also the musicians), are having a jam session in the set pub and you the audience are more than welcome to come up on stage, watch, and grab a drink from the on-stage working pub bar. This unique and uncommon occurrence, aids in setting a wonderfully distinctive feeling to the show.
Nate Bertone’s beautiful and charming set evokes the lush mystique of the Emerald Isle, and the cozy old world feel of the pub. Once the audience members are in their seats, the cast transitions into the first number and the show begins. We meet a disillusioned musician (brilliantly played by Barry DeBois) who is about to give up and walk away from his guitar forever. However, just before he can actually leave, a beautiful stranger (the fantastic Andrea Goss) approaches him asking about his music and challenging and encouraging him to continue. As her passion for life, love and music renew his own, we are taken along on their emotional journey.
This show is impeccably performed from every aspect. As I mentioned earlier, the actors are also the musicians and all of the music for this show is performed live on stage as they are acting. It is magnificent and very striking. Their musicality is not alone in impressing however. Vocal ability is fabulous, characterization superb, and comedic timing spot-on. The characters are both Irish and Czech and the consistent accents are quite pleasing.
Defining Once is quite a challenge, and I think, intentionally. It is not a comedy, but has many funny moments; it is not a tragedy, and yet has bittersweet moments. A haunting love story to music that will leave you touched, wistful, and yet encouraged.
One word of warning however, don’t go if you’re sleepy. It is a beautiful and sedate musical, the opening jam session is about as peppy as it gets.
A sweet and mellow tale of love and music, Once is a mosaic of many messages: never leave the doors behind you half ajar, finish what you’ve started, don’t give up, and most importantly don’t be afraid to begin. An excellent production which should be added to your must-see list at Once.