The first love story was that of Adam and Eve and ever since love stories have made up the bulk of the arts from theatre to films, books, paintings and opera. The bottom line becomes what makes a particular love story different and the musical version of “Once”, based on the movie, has a lot of differences starting with the two leads not having names but just called Guy and Girl. Added to that is there is no orchestra with most in the cast playing a musical instrument, being the orchestra. The original award winning film score is in the show with a few new songs. The most startlingly aspect of “Once” is the combination of direction, movement and the music supervision not really knowing where one starts and the other leaves off. The cast of 13 are precision artists in all facets of their movements and have the audience in a state of awe throughout most of the show.
The show starts as soon as the auditorium doors are open with the curtain up showing an Irish pub in Dublin. The audience is invited on stage, Irish songs and jigs are danced until at one point Guy (played by Stuart Ward who plays the guitar) starts singing “Leave” and the lights dim. We immediately meet Girl (played by Dani de Waal who also plays the piano. She is impressed with Guy’s singing and playing being even more impressed when she learns he wrote the words and music. He explains that he has written most of his songs about his ex-girlfriend who has moved to New York. He is ready to give up on his music and make a life working for his father fixing vacuum.
Guy meets Girl, they fall in love and... Along the way we meet Da Guy’s father (played by Raymond Bokhour who plays the mandolin, Baruska, her mother, (played by Donna Garner who plays the accordion and concertina) and Girl’s daughter (Kolette Tetlow who seems to be the only one not playing an instrument). The rest of the cast includes Matt DeAngelis (guitar, mandolin, banjo, drum set, percussion), John Steven Gardner (piano, guitar, percussion, melodica, harmonica), Evan Harrington (guitar, percussion, ukulele), Ryan Link (guitar, banjo), Benjamin Magnuson (cello, guitar), Alex Nee (electric bass, ukulele, guitar, percussion), Erica Swindell (violin, percussion) and Claire Wellin (violin).
The star of the show is definitely Stuart Ward, who appears as part of the exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity, has a powerhouse voice not only to put over his solos but to modulate his tones to blend in when singing with others. And he, as are the others, are given a score with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.
There wouldn’t be a “Once” without the actors/musicians, score and book (by Enda Walsh) but the names above the title should be Director John Tiffany, Movement by Steven Hoggett along with music supervisor and orchestrations by Lowe. All make theatre magic at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
Next show at the Center will be “WarHorse” March 4-9 to be followed by “Blue Man Group” May 13-18 and “Evita” May 27- June 1.