BWW Review: Theater Latté Da's ONCE Appears to 'Walk on Moonbeams'
To open their 2018-2019 season, Theater Latté Da presents the multi Tony Award winning musical ONCE at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis. Adapted by Edna Walsh with worlds and lyrics written or composed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, ONCE recalls the story of a guy and girl who meet through fate for six days in Dublin, Ireland. The Girl, a Czech immigrant ready to begin a new life, intersects at a train station with an Irishmen who repairs Hoovers while pondering on abandoning his musical career. Together, in an old Dublin shop where pianos are sold, Girl plays her accompaniment to Guy's lyrics. The two indeed "make beautiful music together," while Latté Da's production keeps the musical drama and their audiencenes, as a song from the musical quotes, "walking on moonbeams."
Director Peter Rothstein, also the Founding Artistic Director, masterminded a visual delight for this production when he selected two amazing actors, Ben Bokken and Britta Ollmann, for the role of Guy and Girl that harmonize with their chemistry and voices. The musical's songs reverberate through the Ritz Theater amid a bilevel train station designed by Michael Hoover. Lights dim, and a full moon shines backstage, drenching the production in magic courtesy of Lighting Director Grant E. Merges. Choreographer Kelli Foster Warder provides silhouetted and synchronized moves fro the entire ensemble. The cast dances and simultaneously plays their instruments inherent to The Irish Tradition, and in one scene, several cast members sing acapella from the train station balcony bathed in this haunting light.
While actors Bakken and Ollman capture the audience's heart with their music and heartwarming charm, each member in the cast adds a unique element with a few lines on stage or strumming their instruments through the in between scene music, revealing all triple-talented actors. The entire cast completes a cultural chorus to inspire audiences so the collective effort from this fabulous acting and technical team creates an absolutely gorgeous show, reveling in Irish music.
The story confounds the musical with a bit of Irish fatalism or philosophy, and salutes the power of love, music and live theater. Latté Da opens their fall season with a winning production, that includes special notes to an accomplished ensemble worthy of awards, too-including the piano shop owner, Svec, Matt Riehle, Barushka, Suzanne Warmanen and Da, Martin L'Herault. Jay Albright, Francesa Dawis, Molly Sue McDonald, Antonia Perez, Dan Piering, Silas Sellnow, and Reed Sigmund complete the consummate ensemble.
Throughout the two plus hour production, these two immigrants Girl, coming to Ireland, and Guy leaving for America, seek to better their lives and achieve their dreams. The two musicians profoundly believe in each other's dreams and encourage the other to move past fear--fear of love, life and the challenging decisions they hold in their hearts. Guy's Da wisely counsels his son to avoid "being scared of wasting life because you're frightened of it," which promises to confront what the audience may fear as well--what is the person or circumstance or future that a person fears the most in his or her life? How does someone move past the fear and forward to discover a dream or the life one wishes, or was meant, to live?
Audience members were in tears when Guy and Girl sang the finale with the Academy Award winning song, "Falling Slowly." An exceptionally produced evening of theater in Minneapolis, filled with memorable moments and music, each performance features a before the show, half hour musical concert celebrating, drama, culture and immigrants--- while tickets are remain available. Or stay after the musical ends for the several post show discussions, and either way, leave Latté Da's ONCE absolutely "walking on moonbeams" the entire week .
Theater Latté Da presents the award winning ONCE at the Ritz Theater, 345 13th Avenue, NE, ,through October 21. For further information regarding the upcoming season, or tickets to ONCE, please call 612.339. 3003 or visit: www.latteda.org.