If you’re a fan of breaking the fourth wall of the theater, Once is one musical you shouldn’t miss. Better yet, if you’re not a fan, this is a musical you have to see.
The creative way the stage at the Marot and Bill Winspear Opera House transforms into a pub–a space the crowd is invited to immerse themselves as the performers play a variety of traditional Irish and Czech tunes before the show starts and during intermission–allows the viewer to become a part of the story and to remain a part throughout the production.
As the lights dimmed, I almost lost track of where the audience stopped, and the show began. The connection never ended.
In all honesty, it’s the smartest way to take advantage of what is one set and one scene. And one rather straightforward plot.
Once opened the 2019/2020 Broadway season Friday night at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. The musical, which has taken home eight Tony awards, is based on the 2007 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, which was written and directed by John Carney, and starred Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, with original music and lyrics by the duo.
I have seen a lot of musicals over the past year and a half–all a first for me. I have seen musicals that had me up on my feet dancing, ones that had me gasping for air as I laughed, ones that amazed my eyes with beautiful sets and costumes, and ones that have made me cry, think about social justice, and take a walk down memory lane
Once is pretty unique.
I have read others describe it as basically a love connection that takes place over 16 songs. I do not think that is true. Basic love connection plots are simple–and predictable. It is boy meets girl, they fall for one another, have a huge fight, and then reconcile in some grandiose manner. We have seen that in all the romantic comedies.
That is not what this story was about.
I was quite gutted as I watched Guy, a Dublin street musician (performed by Jack Gerhard) go from a man who strums his guitar as he hates it to a man who’s fallen back in love with life thanks to Girl, a Czech immigrant who likes his haunting love songs.
See, Guy has a girl in New York City that left him six months ago to chase her dreams. And Girl has a husband who abandoned her and their child in Dublin. And as you wait for these two obviously in love characters to act on that love, it never happens.
I almost cried for the couple when Guy said he wanted to play music for people who wanted to listen, and she replied, “I am people. I want to listen.”
KISS HER, I screamed inside.
Emotionally, it was disappointing. But it is also real. Life doesn’t always go as planned. We can’t always follow our emotions.
The reason why the love story was so successful and why we felt invested in the characters is because they were so relatable and charming. And funny!! I don’t think I have been to a musical production this past year and a half where the audience roared with such laughter.
What also is impressive is that the actors are the orchestral accompaniment.
The musicians are strong performers with a commanding presence, and the numbers are arresting. I could listen to “Falling Slowly” all day.
Lotz tells me she found the experience exhilarating because it gives her another window into her character. “It’s exciting as a musician to use both of those skills and combine those passions,” she said.
For Gerhard, he calls it the combination of his two favorite worlds. “When I’m not doing musical theater, I’m singing and playing guitar somewhere else,” he said.
Beyond Gerhard’s guitary playing and Lotz on the piano, one of my favorite parts of the production was the way they worked in a cello. This, quite honestly, might be the only place in Dallas to see a cellist dance around a stage!!
Once, the Musical is in Dallas through Sunday.
Tickets for once range from $35 to $95 and can be purchased at www.attpac.org, by phone at 214-880-0202, or in person at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Winspear Opera House box office at 2403 Flora St.