Review: ONCE at Hale Center Theater Orem is Expressively Real

ONCE plays through June 3, 2023. 

By: May. 08, 2023
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Review: ONCE at Hale Center Theater Orem is Expressively Real

ONCE at Hale Center Theater Orem is built on gritty realism and polished with expressive strokes of emotion.

ONCE (book by Enda Walsh, music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) is based on an Oscar-winning 2007 film and itself won eight Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical. Guy meets Girl. Together they overcome heartbreak through music, helping one another move forward with their lives.

Kristian Huff as Guy (double cast with Will Ingram) stuns with powerful, raw vocals, and Malia Mackay as Girl (double cast with Rachel Ryan Nicholes) is sharp-witted yet tender. Together they drive the narrative with self-assurance, mutual admiration, and weighty sentiment.

Other memorable performances comes from Summer Farnsworth as Reza (double cast with Makenzie Belnap), Carson Davies as the Bank Manager (double cast with Clark Woolstenhulme), Caleb Collier as Billy (double cast with Patrick Kintz), DeLayne Bluth Dayton as Baruska (double cast with Shaunna Thompson), and Brian Tanner as Da (double cast with David Kocherhans).

Really the entire cast is laudable for their enjoyable portrayals and especially their impressive onstage playing of instruments from the guitar and ukulele to the violin and mandolin to the piano and accordion.

The naturalistic direction by David Morgan is both finely tuned and well attuned to the special nature of the piece. His collaborators, including music director Jenny McKay and choreographer Jennifer Hill Barlow, succeed in carrying out his vision and doing justice to the show's unique demands.

The astonishing set by Brad Shelton is mind-blowingly cool, textured and painted to look like a real street corner with asphalt and sidewalk. It is adaptable to represent multiple locations with the assistance of the atmospheric media design and lighting by Ryan Fallis, which paints the scenes and moods with broad strokes of color, shapes, light, and shadow. Dvorah Governale's carefully selected costumes fill out the world with further detail.

A local production of ONCE is a rare occurrence in Utah, and this one has everything going for it. It's truly not to be missed.

ONCE plays through June 3, 2023. For tickets, call the box office at 801-226-8600 or visit

Photo Credit: Photo by Suzy O Photography.


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