On Stage: Once

“Once” isn’t a flashy spectacle of a musical. It’s just a very entertaining one.

Based on the 2007 film by John Carney, it was turned into a Broadway show by Enda Walsh (book), Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (music and lyrics). It went on to win eight Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical.


Mackenzie Lesser-Roy and Sam Cieri and the ONCE tour company. Photo by Joan Marcus

The show boasts an unconventional opening. The stage is set up as a large Irish pub and audience members are welcome to go up on stage and mingle before the show begins. The cast of actor/musicians come out and begin playing. As showtime approaches the audience slowly goes to their seats but the cast continue performing until seamlessly and without warning, the show is underway.

“Once” is the story of a Guy (Sam Cieri) and a Girl (Mackenzie Lesser-Roy) whose lives are changed through a one-week encounter. The guy is a struggling musician in Dublin. His girlfriend just left him for New York, and he spends his days fixing vacuum cleaners and his nights playing in a friend’s pub, where all the other customers also turn out to be musicians.

Guy has written several songs of love and longing about his ex-girlfriend, which he performs with great emotion. His talent gets the attention of Girl, a Czech woman recently settled in Dublin with her mother and daughter. She is determined to break him out of his funk, record some hit songs, and ship him off to New York for fame and a reunion with his lost love.

There’s not a lot of story here but what “Once” lacks in plot it makes up for in music and richly crafted characters. The music, mainly of the Irish-folk sound, includes the Academy Award-winning “Falling Slowly” and show stoppers like “Gold” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”

The talented cast performs multiple duties as actors, dancers, the orchestra and setting up the stage between scenes. They handle all these challenges with skill and high energy.

“Once” runs through Saturday at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

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