Sam Cieri as Guy
Mackenzie Lesser-Roy as Girl
Patricia Bartlett as Baruska
Jenn Chandler as Bank Manager
John Hays as Billy
Bristol Pomeroy as Da
Theodora Silverman as Ivanka
Issac Haas as Andrej
Liam Fennecken as Svec
Dan Tracy as Eamon
Agnel Lin as Emcee
Nyssa Duchow as Ex-girlfriend
His Music Needed One Thing. Her
BRAVO! Once was incredible. It was a musical experience and by far, one of the best I have ever seen and heard. The music and harmonies were exquisite. The talented cast of Once, led by Sam Cieri (Guy) and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy (Girl) put their heart and soul into this beloved Tony Award Winning Musical. Based on the 2007 low budget Irish hit film, written and directed by John Carney, the story is about two struggling musicians in Dublin, Ireland. The song, “Falling Slowly” won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and the soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Act One opens with an unnamed guy, an Irish street singer and guitarist who has given up on love, life and his career in music. At a Dublin music store, he encounters a young unnamed classically trained Czech pianist who is lured by his music and tries to talk to him about his songs. At first, Guy does not answer the woman, but as she uses her whit and charm, he eventually engages in conversation.
He is heartbroken because his girlfriend has gone to New York and he is not making it as a musician. During their conversation, the woman finds out that the man repairs Hoover vacuum cleaners and she insists that he fix her broken Hoover. She tells Guy she will pay him with a song. At the music store, the man teaches the Czech woman one of his songs (“Falling Slowly”) and before you know it, they are making marvelous music together.
Guy invites her to his father’s Hoover shop and on the trip there he tells her the songs are about his long-time girlfriend who moved to America. They become fast friends, who support each other when they need it the most. The Czech woman convinces the man that he has the potential to make it as a recording artist and goes with him to secure a loan for the studio and album.
The musical takes the audience to Ireland utilizing a minimalist interior pub set with wood-panels, some of which are covered in mirrors. It never changes throughout the performance, but is adapted with the movement of lighting and props (chairs, table and piano) for different scenes such as the music shop, bedroom, recording studio, a bank, beach and father’s shop. The 15-minute intermission was unique in that the stage became an actual pub and the audience was invited to come up and purchase a drink.
In Act 2, Guy and the Czech woman become closer as they teach the songs to their band comprised of family, friends and the banker. They stroll on the beach and you can tell they are falling in love. During a recording session break, the Czech woman continues playing one of her own songs that reveals the depth of her feelings for Guy. He invites her and her daughter (Ivanka) to move to New York with him. She replies angrily that he can’t feel that way. He does not understand and then she reveals that her estranged husband – Ivanka’s father – is coming back to work things out. He asks her to spend his last night in Dublin with him, but she says it would only result in “hanky-panky”, which is a bad idea. She does accompany him to the vacuum shop to say goodbye.
Later on that evening, Guy plays the demo for his father, who gives him some money to follow his dreams in New York. Guy calls his ex-girlfriend in New York and tells her he will see her the next day and wants to give their relationship another try. The show ends with the Czech woman coming home to find a piano – a gift from Guy.
The current touring production features Sam Cieri’s hauntingly romantic and beautiful voice that captures the essence of Hansard and Irglova’s music. He is joined by Mackenzie Lesser-Roy at the Girl. Both nail the Irish and Czech accents and create remarkable chemistry together. The likeable ensemble acts, sings and play their hearts out on an assortment of instruments, including wind, string and percussion. Once is about following your dreams. It is also thinking about what once was and what might have been. The show is also charming and funny, with relatable characters. I highly recommend this production with one word of caution for some. The film received an R rating for language which carries over with lots of f-bombs in the musical. Otherwise, it is more a PG show.
Once again, Orange Park’s Thrasher Horne Center for the Arts (THCA) provided an outstanding venue to showcase this wonderful Broadway show. The 2016 season has been incredible and the staff at the THCA should be commended for continuing to bring fantastic shows for all of North Florida. The THCA is located just a short distance south of I-295 off Blanding Blvd. It is well worth the short journey and parking is free.~ A.S. McLeod
Date: May 1, 2016
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts
Music & lyrics by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
Based on the motion picture written and directed by John Carney