Tony award-winning musical ONCE bills itself as a, "truly original theatrical experience", and in the confines of the Winspear Opera House it totally delivers. Click through for my full review.
It's tough to bring to life the reality of Glen and Marketa, but ONCE THE MUSICAL captures the tender bond between these two musicians searching for more in life. The production is "truly original theatrical experience" because of a few key choices.
You don't take home 8 Tony's unless you do capture that same film quality that touched so many viewers. So the obvious choice that has to be made first is that you need actors you can actually play and sing. Stuart Ward doesn't have the sweet demeanor of Glen, but his raw power really makes GUY a tough love for the audience. Dani de Waal really shines as GIRL as she recreates the adorable factor of Marketa, but her quick wit and sarcastic punch really pushes her to another level. The ensemble is also a quality bunch that has comedy chops to make the whole evening a real laugh factor. Evan Harrington as BILLY has a hilarious clumsy nature that is maximized by his big frame, but he shreds the strings nicely. The real scene stealer is Matt DeAngelis' SVEC who's adrenaline kicks to it's own super high level and allows for some awesome moments of pure kick ass fun. Overall the talent is there and minus some difficult moments of battling through the thick accents the story is easily grasped.
The songs are important as each rendition needs to live up to the previous incarnations and Glen/Marketa of course. "GOLD" nicely closes the first act but it's A cappella version in the second act will really tug at your heart. ONCE isn't a musical that will blow you away with a kick ass show, but rather is musically softer and more thoughtful. You really need to listen to the words to tackle the struggling pain behind the characters' lives. But the unique quality of the Winspear production is the fact that we are treated to more songs then are in the playbill. In fact if you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the show you get a REAL treat. The full company of the musical are on stage and the audience is allowed to venture up "into the bar". The set doesn't change, it is as much a character as the people and so the creative team really did a great job of capturing the feel of a scene by allowing a "Cheers" vibe. In fact the choice to not lower the lights until after DA, played by Scott Waara, finishes the 10 minute prologue allows for the audience to actually keep talking and acting like they are in a real bar music scene. Most of us had drinks in our hands and were with friends looking at the musicians playing away fun "bar" tunes until DA started his sad story of love and loss. You naturally just sit back and listen even with the lights fully on, powerful words from a man yearning for his lost love. Overall the unusual feeling of being in the WINSPEAR and yet acting like it's just us in a pub really is genius move. GUY totally awakens the production with the first number "Leave" and we're by then invested into the plot. But you'll have to see the production to really grasp the touching resolutions that each character has by the end of Act Two. The story is no longer just of two potential lovers brought together by a shared passion, but instead we gain so much more. Father and son, mothers and daughters, friends, ex-lovers, whores and even bank managers all have a chance to find redemption amongst the walls of the bar. I leave you with Dani's real special moment in the production, the song "The Hill". Here she is on "Good Day L.A."
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