BWW Review: ONCE at Broadway Palm
Once upon a time, a Guy and a Girl meet. So begins every romance and so begins Once. The generic names underscore the universality of the travails of love.
The Guy in this case is portrayed by Jack Gerhard, a Dublin musician full of angst because his girlfriend for whom he writes his songs has left him. He's about to abandon his guitar and possibly his life when the Girl hears his song and persuades him to keep plugging away at his music and at getting his girlfriend back.
Played by Mariah Lotz, the Girl is a pianist and the yang to his yin. Her circumstances are no better than the Guy's, but she is optimistic about life and willing to go after what she wants, be it having her vacuum repaired or convincing a buttoned-up banker to loan money for a record demo.
Both leads have powerful voices and the ability to convey the emotions of love and loss. Another standout was Jon Patrick Penick as Billy, the shop proprietor who says he hates capitalists until he realizes he is one.
The staging of the show is unusual and a bit gimmicky. In a pre-show of foot-stompin', hand-clappin' music, the audience is encouraged to come up on stage and join in the fun.
The set consists of a large bar with no curtain. Everyone in the cast is on stage throughout the show, and everyone plays one or more instruments, sometimes while also doing choreography. When they are not actively participating in a scene, they are seated off to the side acting as orchestra.
The score seesaws between the upbeat, raucous numbers and some moments of breathtaking quiet. "Gold," an a cappella ensemble song near the end of the second act is beautifully done. I also really loved the subtle cello and violin duets by Todd Aulwurm and Emily Gregonis underpinning several of the songs.
Broadway Palm embarks on its 27th season and 200th production with this multiple Tony award winner. After the run here, the cast will take the show on the road in a national tour of nearly 50 cities.
The show plays until September 28. For tickets, call 239.278.4422.