BWW Preview: ONCE at The Playhouse, 3/31
The Playhouse ends a very successful season with the March 31 opening of ONCE. This year, Aisle Say's personal favorite was KINKY BOOTS, words and music by Cyndi Lauper. I recall writing that in all my years at The Playhouse I had never witnessed such thunderous applause. In a telephone interview beforehand, the actor said that one of her colleagues had been in the 2-year tour performing 800 times. Quite impressive. While GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE was probably not a money maker due to its lack of notoriety, it was fantastic theatre.
One aspect that should be noted in this season is the seamlessness in quality between Equity and non-equity. Non-equity shows are less expensive and generally employ young actors who have not attained Equity status. A national tour is definitely a cool way to start a professional career.
RENT, PIPPIN and now ONCE are non-equity. There was no disconnect in the first two with any of the season's Equity shows. That speaks well to the experience, the eye, the intuition and the negotiating skills of Programmer StEve Bailey.
The musical ONCE did not follow custom. It was created from the 2007 movie with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. They recreated their evocative "Falling Slowly" at the Academy Awards and left that night with the gold. I'm listening to it now.
In the musical, the cast also serves as the orchestra. A minimalist set is used, including a bar in center stage with chairs lining stage left and right. Exiting cast members simply step to the side of the stage and sit down. They serve as the orchestra from these chairs. The bar is used before the show and at intermission as a working bar for theater patrons.
I had the opportunity to speak to one of the stars of the tour, Nyessi Duchow, who plays the ex-girlfriend of the protagonist (only identified as Guy. The Czech woman and fellow musician is identified as Girl). Girl has a daughter....drum roll...Ivanka. (Badda bing badda boom!)
I recall years ago there was a version of CABARET with Patti LuPone wherein all the actors played instruments as they do in ONCE. Nyessi's violin career started at age 5. Her mother taught violin for a living. While she ceased playing in college Webster Conservatory in St. Louis to become a fully rounded Theate Arts major, she wiped off the dust from her case with auditions for ONCE. So, all you theatrical aspirants, don't begrudge the years Mom and Dad drove you screaming to lessons. You never know.
The script is now steeped in wise and folksy observations about committing to love and taking chances. In the musical Guy has been transformed from a shaggy nerd into a figure of leading-man handsomeness, while Girl has turned into a full-fledged version of what she only threatened to be in the film: a kooky, life-affirming waif who is meant to be irresistible. The songs (written by Mr. Hansard and Ms. Irglova) soar with rough-edged, sweet-and-sad ambivalence that is seldom visited in contemporary American musicals.
Mar 31 - Apr 2 ThePlayhouseDE.org 302.888.0200