Theatre Raleigh’s current production of Once, directed by Tim Seib, is a 2011 Off-Broadway and 2012 Broadway musical, with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová and book by Enda Walsh, based on a 2007 Irish film. This is a relatively recent trend for many of us, who grew up watching film versions of Broadway musicals. If you have enjoyed shows such as Hairspray, Sister Act, Billy Elliot, and Legally Blonde, you get the idea.
The film version of Once starred the composers as the male and female leads. They added songs to build the stage version, one that took home eight Tony Awards® in 2012, including Best Musical. This show differs, however, in style from the typical show. There are no big production numbers or large choreographed dances. Once is primarily about the music. Each cast member performs in the orchestra, in addition to playing their characters. The acting is first-rate, and the musicianship, superb. Several of the actors played multiple instruments.
Even though I might not go home singing any of the songs, the score is an interesting mix of Celtic, bluegrass, and folk music. David Toole, playing the lead role of Guy, is particularly outstanding. His voice has the raw energy of a lead singer in a rock band.
The show opens with the cast performing Irish songs as if in a pub, as the audience members entered and were seated. This, in lieu of a traditional overture, was fresh and homey. Soon, the male lead (Guy) and the female lead (Girl) meet and begin a multilayered story about talent, loss, loneliness, and desire. Girl is Czech, and serves as a muse for Guy, who is a local Dubliner.
The set is an additional character in this version of Once. The Kennedy Theatre is set up with seats on both sides of the central space. The choreographed movements of the cast and props are seamless and enhanced the story.
At no time did I feel that the actors had their backs to any audience members. I previously saw this show in a much larger venue (the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC); and much of the charm was lost there. Here, no seat is more than 20 feet from the actors.
This is the type of fresh approach to the musical genre that everyone should see. If you have a younger person who bores easily, this show has so much happening, both audibly and visually, that it may convert them.
I have only one tiny nitpick. Although the Irish and Czech accents and dialects were great overall, Morgan Parpan (Girl) is a bit all over the map, both literally and figuratively. It has no serious impact on her otherwise stellar performance.
I was a bit disappointed with the audience turnout, because about 20 percent of the seats were empty. This fine ensemble certainly deserves better, as do theater lovers who have not seen this fine show.
Once should be seen at least once.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 6th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/09/theatre-raleighs-production-of-once-is-beautiful-and-brutally-honest/; Aug. 31st Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Interview with actors Dave Toole and Morgan Parpan, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-Dave-Toole-And-Morgan-Parpan-of-Theatre-Raleighs-ONCE-Talk-About-Dialects-Making-Music-and-Whats-Next-20180831; and Aug. 29th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/once/Event?oid=17389855.
Theatre Raleigh presents ONCE at 8 p.m. Sept. 6 and 7, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 9, 3 p.m. Sept. 10, 8 p.m. Sept. 12-14, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 15, and 3 p.m. Sept. 16 in the in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theatre in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $35 ($32.50 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
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PARKING/MAP: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/location-parking/ and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking.
Once (2007 Irish musical film): http://www.foxsearchlight.com/once/ and http://www.iconmovies.co.uk/once/(official websites), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0907657/ (Internet Movie Database), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/661309/Once/ (TCM Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Once (2011 Off-Broadway, 2012 Broadway, 2013 Dublin, and 2013 West End musical): http://www.oncemusical.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/OnceMusical (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/OnceMusical (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Glen Hansard (music and lyrics): http://www.glenhansardmusic.com/songofgoodhope/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Hansard (Wikipedia).
Markéta Irglová (music and lyrics): http://marketairglovamusic.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark%C3%A9ta_Irglov%C3%A1 (Wikipedia).
Enda Walsh (book): http://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/enda-walsh/ (Curtis Brown bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enda_Walsh (Wikipedia).
Tim Seib (Theatre Raleigh guest director): http://www.timseib.com/ (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/timseib (Facebook page).
Robert O’Connell is new to the Triangle, but not to the stage. As a playwright, he has had dozens of productions and awards throughout the world. He has an MS degree in Management Systems Analysis. A lifelong educator, O’Connell has also published three novels at http://www.flashmobthenovel.com/ and two humor anthologies from his blog, https://thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com/. He and his wife have settled in Cary, NC. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.