BWW Review: ONCE at Midtown Feels Like Broadway
Ever since I saw Once on tour, I've been intrigued how it would do regionally. The show itself isn't necessarily complicated, but you need to find actors who can sing well and play a variety of instruments while maintaining accents, or the show just doesn't work. Most theatres realistically don't have the talent pool available for that. I make no apologies for my high expectations.
Thankfully, the current production at Midtown Arts Center has managed to assemble a cast that essentially lives up to what I require from this show.
Based on the 2007 film of the same name featuring music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the musical premiered on Broadway in 2012, winning several awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical. The book was adapted for the stage by Enda Walsh. Midtown Arts Center is producing the show's regional premiere.
Set in Dublin, the story follows a singer/songwriter (simply referred to as "Guy") who currently works with his father as a vacuum cleaner repairman. After performing a song, he meets "Girl," who offers to play him music in exchange for him repairing her Hoover. The two begin to forge a bond through their music, but it's complicated because of their past relationships.
Produced and directed by Kurt Terrio, Midtown's production of Once is very reminiscent of the Broadway version. The set is a simple bar setting (designed by Mickey Burdick) where actors serve as the orchestra. Choreography by Micheal Lasris also gives the same vibe as the original production, utilizing simple artistic movements to express the emotional impact of the song.
Guy is played by Barry DuBois, who understudied the role on the national tour. He's perfect for the part, giving the character a very relatable everyman persona. Girl is played by Elena Juliano, who nails both the vocals and the accent. Together, the two are the core of the production, harmoniously bringing out the raw emotions of the roles.
The rest of the cast is solid, despite a few wavering accents, which is really a minimal factor in this show. The role of Girl's mother was also cast as a younger actress, which isn't visually ideal, especially for an intimate dinner theatre setting, but otherwise was handled fine.
If you've seen this production before, you won't be disappointed with Midtown's version. The music is gorgeous, and the story is heartfelt. If you didn't know it, you'd think you were seeing a Broadway show, and what more can you ask?
Once plays Midtown Arts Center through November 11. Tickets and details are available at MidtownArtsCenter.com.