BWW Reviews: ONCE on Tour Shines in Durham
The original film won an Academy Award, the Broadway show won eight Tony Awards, and now Once has come to the Triangle, spending this week at the Durham Performing Arts Center.
Once takes place in Dublin, and is about a two people (called "Guy" and "Girl," their names are never mentioned) making music. Guy is about to give up on his music when Girl hears him play and insists he continue. The two of them, along with their unlikely group of friends, make his music come to life.
Once is nothing like other musicals: there are no tap dancers, orchestra, or flashy costumes, the music isn't loud, the lighting is subtle, and the plot doesn't follow any predictable formula. However, the result is a show which balances out its beautifully crafted mellow folk-style music with witty dialogue. The story and the music speak for themselves, and the talented cast of actor-musicians brings those to life. As the cast of characters begin a pre-show set of songs one is likely to hear in an Irish pub, the show gradually begins. House lights begin to fade as Guy sings the first official song of the show, and the line between the world and the show is blurred. Throughout the show, the characters have the same problems real people have, which are points of connection for conceivably every member of the audience. The house at DPAC was quieter on opening night of Once than it has probably ever been, as each person clung to every word, every note, every moment.
As Guy and Girl, Stuart Ward and Dani De Waal anchor this ensemble cast. Each member of the cast brings their own special something to the mix, from Alex Nee who manages to be both endearing and heartbreaking as Andrej, whose idealism is crumbling around him, to Matt DeAngelis as Švec, who will sacrifice his very pants to rock the drums, and Evan Harrington as Billy, who owns the music shop where Girl plays piano. It would be easy to simply list the entire cast and each ones merits - suffice it to say that each is spectacular.
The music is woven into the show in a different way than most musical theater fans are used to. The characters themselves are singing the music they have written - it is not the audience suspending their disbelief that people don't generally break out into song and dance; instead, Once presents situations in which people actually would be singing. It is a scenario which will please both those familiar and unfamiliar with traditional musical theater, as it defies expectations for both. The gorgeous music, by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová is gripping without being overwhelming.
Once runs through January 26. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.