BWW Review: Miners Alley's ONCE is a Spectacle of Raw Musicianship
Immediately upon entering the theater, you'll realize Once isn't going to be your typical musical theatre fare.
The cast of the show is gathered on the stage playing their own instruments, like violins and guitars. And at Miners Alley, the venue's intimacy makes their folksy preshow all the more engaging.
This naturally transitions into the show's action, where we meet Guy (John Hauser) playing his own music on the street. Yet, he's ready to put his behind him, settling for a life where he fixes hoovers at his dad's shop.
That is, until Girl (Carmen Vreeman Shedd) overhears him. Turns out she's got a broken hoover, and she'd like to pay him for its repair with music. And so begins a story of love and connection through song.
Once began as a film in 2007, starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, singer/songwriters who performed as real-life duo The Swell Season prior to the film. It spawned the iconic Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly along with a Grammy-winning soundtrack.
The musical (with a book by Enda Walsh) followed soon after in 2012, winning several Tony Awards including Best Musical. Miners Alley is one of the first venues in the area to tackle the show, which isn't an easy feat.
In Once, every actor plays double duty as a musician. There are several instruments, like guitars, violins, piano and even an accordion, and the musicianship displayed throughout is spectacular.
While the whimsical story is sweet and simplistic, it's the music that truly draws you in. Hauser's raw talent is on full display as Guy, and he amplifies his role's relatability with an everyman vibe. He performs each song like a genuine musician. As does Vreeman Shedd as Girl, who gives a performance that's equal parts quirky and haunting. In fact, the entire cast is rounded out with a multitalented ensemble of musicians who can deliver a witty line just as well as they can jam on a fiddle.
Directed by Len Matheo, the production uses the space perfectly. There's not much to the set, and there doesn't need to be. It allows the performers to shine as their own spectacle. For much of the show, all that needs to be on display is the performance. The cast utilizes the aisles at points, really giving the show the immersive atmosphere you crave.
Once is a gorgeous exploration of connection through music, and Miners Alley is the ideal space for it with one of the best ensembles I've experienced in a while. If you've never experienced Once, this is how you should.
Once plays Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden through October 18. Tickets are available at minersalley.com.