BWW Review: ONCE at the Warner Theatre

BWW Review: ONCE at the Warner TheatreThere is something magical and monumental happening on the stage of the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT. Granted, theatre is inherently magical by nature, but in the Warner Stage Company's production of ONCE, something extra, something ethereal, and something heart-wrenchingly beautiful is taking place. I feel privileged to have been able to witness it.

The Warner Stage Company is the very first community theatre company in the country to be granted the production rights to ONCE since coming off Broadway and I believe they have set the bar for all future community theatre productions of the piece. Based on the motion picture of the same name written and directed by John Carney and with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova and a book by Enda Walsh, the Tony award winning Best Musical, ONCE tells the story of an Irish busker (Noel Roberge) who is close to giving up on his music (and possibly even life) who, one fateful evening, meets a Czech girl (Kelly White) who gives him perspective, changes his outlook, and teaches him to love again.

What makes ONCE BWW Review: ONCE at the Warner Theatreunique to many other musicals is that the entire cast plays double duty, both as actors and musicians. This is what makes this production that much more amazing. As they have done with past shows (e.g., THE WHO'S TOMMY, ROCK OF AGES), the Warner Stage Company has shown that they are adept at finding extremely talented actors and musicians for their productions. But in ONCE they must be one in the same, and this cast rises to the occasion and brings this gorgeous musical to vivid life.

Playing the two would-be lovers at the center of this story are Noel Roberge and Kelly White. These two actors display a real chemistry on stage and deliver heartfelt and raw performances with every song. The music, by itself, is gorgeous, but these two add their own soul to the score. In terms of acting they are completely believable as two people searching for their way in life, and their budding love is palpable. And with the action taking place in Dublin, the accents also play a huge role in setting the stage, and both (Mr. Roberge, in particular) nail it.

BWW Review: ONCE at the Warner TheatreThe rest of the cast is equally brilliant, bringing their own unique flair to each quirky character and through each note (both sung and played). Tom Denihan is a perfect balance of neuroses and testosterone as middle-aged music shop owner, Billy. Nate Dobas and Michael O'Hazo are quite funny as the Girl's fellow Czech roommates Svec and Andrej, and Priscilla Squiers is both playful and formidable as Barushka. It is impossible to call out every strong performance because each and every person on the stage is giving 100% to creating the world of ONCE.

Speaking of the world of ONCE, Stephen C. Houk's set design does a brilliant job of providing the environment for this beautiful story. Unlike the Broadway production's singular Irish Pub setting, Mr. Houk has created an Dublin street with clear views into settings, both public and private. In doing so, the set allows the audience to view the musicians in various locations throughout the show - playing on the terrace, practicing in the living room, sitting by the window, etc. This makes the full ensemble numbers feel organic, real, and magical in the way that it brings these human lives together through song.

Sharon A. Wilcox BWW Review: ONCE at the Warner Theatre(Director/Choreographer) and Dan Ringuette (Music Director) work together seamlessly to build a story that is both relatable and fantastical. The staging is, by itself, a work of art, with characters framed in light (designed by LBC lighting), in costumes that help set the tone (by Renee C. Purdy) and often in a tableau that adds to the other-worldly feel of the show. The movement is fluid and graceful and even the transitions are well-choregraphed and beautiful to watch.

I cannot say enough good things about the Warner Stage Company's ONCE. It is touching, it is life-affirming, and it captures the mind and the soul from the first chord to the last beat. It is a beautiful expression of life, of love and of the way music can heal wounds, unite souls and elevate life. This will be a production that will stick with me for a very long time. Don't miss the chance to see this gem of a show (and get there early, as the music starts even before the lights go down!)

ONCE runs at the Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington, CT. Remaining performances are February 9 and 10 at 8:00 pm and February 11 at 2:00 pm. To purchase tickets, call the Warner Box Office at 860-489-7180 or visit

Photo credits: Mandi Martini

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