Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

In Once at the Duke Energy Center, a Czech Girl Becomes a Muse to a Struggling Irish Songwriter

Guy (Stuart Ward) shows a new confidence with Girl (Dani de Waal) accompanying him on piano (photo by Joan Marcus)

Guy (Stuart Ward) shows a new confidence with Girl (Dani de Waal) accompanying him on piano (photo by Joan Marcus)

Broadway Series South is bringing the National Tour of the multiple 2012 Tony Award®-winning musical romance Once back to the Triangle for eight performances on Dec. 1-6 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The 2011 Off-Broadway, 2012 Broadway, 2013 Dublin, and 2013 West End musical is based on the Academy Award®-winning 2007 Irish musical film about a Czech immigrant girl who gives a struggling Irish singer-songwriter the courage to pursue his dreams. (Shot on a shoestring budget of $160,000 in just 17 days, Once won the 2007 Oscar® for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly.”)

The critically acclaimed show is set in an Irish pub where Guy (played by Stuart Ward) performs and Girl (Dani de Waal) becomes his number-one fan, friend, and muse.

“Girl is a Czech immigrant living in Dublin,” explains English actress Dani de Waal, who made her professional debut playing Sophie in Mamma Mia! in the West End. She adds “[Girl] lives in a too-small apartment with a number of friends and family, including her young daughter [Sophie Knapp as Ivanka] and mother [Tina Stafford as Baruška]. They live a very modest life; but what they lack in money, they make up for in spirit and the house is vibrant and full of music and life.”

De Waal says, “It is this passion for music that draws [Girl] into meeting Guy. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that the music is epic and romantic and can take you from 0-100 in the space of a bar. I think it would move people as a standalone concert. But then combine that with this unconventional love story, a simple tale really, but one that proposes to us huge universal questions of love and fear and going for your dreams and self-fulfillment.

“[Once is] not a typical ‘boy meets girl and they live happily ever after’ story, it’s honest and real and doesn’t shy away from the reality of there being obstacles and baggage involved when you meet someone, and that candor seems to allow for even more connection to the characters and their story,” claims Dani de Waal, who grew up in the Midlands of England, studied acting in London, and then relocated to New York City in 2012, about a year before she started the Once tour, which kicked off on Oct. 1, 2013 at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, RI.

Dani de Waal recalls, “I auditioned in New York for the role of Girl …. It was the longest audition process I have encountered to date with five or six call backs in total. I have been with the show just over two years now….

“I actually went to Dublin in the month before rehearsals began,” says de Waal. “I was visiting my family in England and thought I’d make the trip across, as I’d never been before. I visited the spots mentioned in the play — Grafton Street, Howth Head. I even went to the music shop that is in the movie and had a tinkle on a piano there! It’s a unique city with an amazing energy to soak up, and having visited definitely enriched my preparation for the play.”

She adds, “We were given the license to find our own version of these characters when we went into rehearsals, which was really wonderful and freeing. The material is all the same as previous productions, but I think the characters have their own nuance that our cast has created.

“Recently, we welcomed Jon-Alex MacFarlane into our cast as the Bank Manager. He had previously been in the Toronto production of Once,” notes says de Waal.

Other tour-cast members not already mentioned who play other major roles include Matt DeAngelis as Švec, John Steven Gardner as Eamon, Evan Harrington as Billy, Erica Spyres as Guy’s Ex-Girlfriend, Scott Waara as Da, and Claire Wellin as Réza.

Girl (Dani de Waal) encourages Guy (Stuart Ward), a struggling singer-songwriter, not to give up on his music (photo by Joan Marcus)

Girl (Dani de Waal) encourages Guy (Stuart Ward), a struggling singer-songwriter, not to give up on his music (photo by Joan Marcus)

Once, like the movie, features music and lyrics by the film’s stars, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová — who played Guy and Girl — plus a book by prize-winning Irish dramatist and screenwriter Enda Walsh. After premiering Off Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop on Dec. 6, 2011, Once moved to the Great White Way, where it debuted on March 18, 2012 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where it played for 1,168 performances before closing on Jan. 4, 2015.

Directed on Broadway and on the 2008 tour by the Black Watch team of director John Tiffany and movement coach Steven Hoggett, this offbeat musical romance took home eight 2012 Tonys, including the award for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical, plus the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical. The first national tour also features music supervision and orchestrations by Martin Lowe, scenic and costume design by five-time Tony Award winner Bob Crowley, lighting design by Tony winner Natasha Katz, and sound design by Clive Goodwin.

Dani de Waal advises Triangle theatergoers to arrive early for Once. “There is a ‘pre-show’ which is not to be missed!” claims de Waal. “Our set is an Irish pub with an actual working bar; and about 15-20 minutes before curtain you can come up on stage, get a drink, and we come out and play a jam session of traditional Irish and Czech folk songs. It’s a lot of fun, and will definitely get you in the Dublin spirit!”

SECOND OPINION: Nov. 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks:; and Nov. 25th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods:

Broadway Series South presents ONCE at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1-4 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $25.14-$105.14, except $20 Student Rush Tickets (sold at the door, 1 hour before curtain, for cash only).


Duke Energy Center Box Office: 919-996-8700 or (information only).

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or

GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-996-8707,, or

SHOW: and


TOUR: and







Once (2007 Irish musical film): and websites), (Internet Movie Database), (TCM Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Once (2011 Off-Broadway, 2012 Broadway, 2013 Dublin, and 2013 West End musical): (official website), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), (Facebook page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

Glen Hansard (music and lyrics): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

Markéta Irglová (music and lyrics): (official website) and (Wikipedia).

Enda Walsh (book): (Curtis Brown bio) and (Wikipedia).

John Tiffany (Scottish director): ( bio) and (Wikipedia).

Dani de Waal (London actress playing Girl): (tour bio), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Twitter page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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