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

Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal Have Great Chemistry and Sound Beautiful Together in Once in Raleigh

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)

I admit I was holding out on Once, now playing at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, courtesy Broadway Series South. I happened to be in New York City during its much-acclaimed Off-Broadway run; and at an after-party for the opening night of Teresa Rebeck’s Seminar, I was strongly encouraged by someone I met to attend, as the run was in its final days before the Broadway transfer. Needless to say, I missed it. It tends to happen with me and pop-culture phenomena that gain a lot of hype. I wait it out. In this case, I waited almost five years.

This National Tour of Once has a lot going for it. The cast is pretty solid as “quadruple threats” — they act, sing, dance, and play their own instruments — and sometimes all at once. They sound great, and hit the emotional marks of the music well.

The show is not your traditional musical, in that some of the songs feel like completely standalone pieces that don’t necessarily assist in furthering plot or character development. The most well-known song, “Falling Slowly,” won an Oscar® for Best Original Song from the first ideation of the story, a film of the same name, written by the same duo of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. The book writer for stage the musical shifted to Irish playwright Enda Walsh.

The story is fairly simple: Guy (Stuart Ward) meets Girl (Dani de Waal); and over the course of less than a week, they fall in love, music is made, and they are changed people by the end. I didn’t really find it to be all that enthralling of a story; but Ward and de Waal have wonderful chemistry, and they sound beautiful together. They ably carry the weight of the show and seemingly never break a sweat. The duo is strongly supported by an ensemble of around 11 other actors.

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)

Do I think Once lives up to the hype? Maybe. It’s a good show, but it didn’t do for me what it seemed to do to the rest of the general theater population. In 2012, it swept the Tony Awards®, winning eight of its 11 nominations, including Best Musical.

Get there at house open, bring some cash, and you can even hang out on the stage in the bar (fantastic set design by the always-impressive Bob Crowley, who won a 2012 Tony for it). Stay up there long enough, and you get an up-close-and-personal warm-up show from the ensemble.

Do I think Once is worth a viewing? Sure. It won’t be a musical for everyone, but it clearly has resonance with many people who take it in. Grab someone you love and make a date of it.

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: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 1st Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Broadway Series South presents ONCE at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 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).


Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. On Feb. 20-March 1, 2015, he directed and starred in Mortall Coile Theatre Company’s presentation of British playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell’s first play, The Pride. He directed Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on May 1-14. On Oct. 15-Nov. 1, Gephart starred as Frank ‘N’ Furter in the City Stage Co.’s rollicking rendition of The Rocky Horror Show. On Dec. 11-13 and 18-20, he will reprise his critically acclaimed performance as David/Crumpet in Theatre in the Park’s presentation of The SantaLand Diaries. To read more of Jesse Gephart’s reviews, click

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews