When the movie, Once, came out in in Ireland 2006, it was a surprise hit. The movie starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who also happen to have written all of the music and lyrics for the film. Folks embraced the story of a brokenhearted Irish street musician/vacuum cleaner repairman who has lost all hope, because of a broken heart.
Then, into his life comes a Czech piano player, a breath of fresh air who recognizes his talent and who is determined to help him reach his musical dreams. Even though the movie was winning acclaim, the demand to hear Hansard and Irglová’s music was so great that the stars toured the country afterwards, selling out venues all along the way and singing their amazing music.
With the bar set this high, we set our expectations low and hoped for the best with Theatre Raleigh’s production of Once, under the direction of Tim Seib. We were dubious that any production could beat the film.
The difficulty in casting these parts was not lost on us; for in order for the story to work, the principal players need to be great actors, great musicians, and have the proper chemistry to make the story believable. Well, we are here to tell you, folks, that the talented group of actors assembled by Theatre Raleigh knocked it out of the park! This production is an absolutely stunning retelling of the story and a musical feast. It is simply a must-see show. Everyone on stage has extraordinary talent, and their technical and musical abilities crystallized on stage to present one of the best shows that we have seen in years.
Make sure you arrive at the theater early, because the troupe of a dozen or so musicians starts off the show with a series of Irish and Czech folk songs, jokes, and ribald humor, which transports us to a rowdy pub in Ireland. Soon, we meet “The Guy,” for that is all we will ever know of him. He is singing for coins on the street. He starts with a break-up song “Leave.” This very raw, personal, piece builds from a quiet calm breakup song to a wrenching, angry wound, at once demanding restraint and flat-out pain; and David Toole is breathtaking in this role. In fact, his whole portrayal of Guy is flawless.
With every song, every scene, Toole shows just the right amount of musicality, angst, earnestness, and heart needed for the part. He easily matched the musical chops of the original artist, which was no small feat.
Into his life comes “The Girl.” She is a bright, straightforward talent herself, and Morgan Parpan’s Girl is Guy’s perfect match. She is warm and patient with Guy, and she keeps her eyes set squarely on helping him mend his heart — while not getting her own broken. There is an obvious attraction between them, but Girl is intent on focusing on helping Guy achieve his musical dream and share his gift with the world.
Obstacles come their way, yet Girl simply won’t take no for an answer. For instance, when they need money to rent a recording studio, she arranges for them to apply for a loan. When it looks like the banker is going to turn them down, she has Guy sing the banker a song that turns the meeting around. Girl and her plucky spirit touches all of those around her, and eventually the Guy starts to regain hope.
Morgan Parpan is quite a gifted actor; she has a lovely voice; and, oh boy, can she play piano. When she and Toole sing harmonies, their voices blend well; and their chemistry is terrific. She plays Girl superbly.
Other talented players must also be acknowledged: Colson Dorafshar (Svec), David Bartlett (Da), Michael Kennedy (Emcee), Tommy McDowell (Eamon), Andrew Nielson (the Bank Manager — oh, just give them the loan!), Megan Ort (what dance and musical moves she has as Reza!), Jon Skinner (Andrej), Tracy Thomas (wonderful as Girl’s ma Barushka), Lauren Wainwright (Guy’s Ex-Girlfriend), each brings another top tier performance to the stage. We must also give a special nod to Jack Boice, who played the music shop owner, Billy. Boice’s loveable portrayal of the big hearted, peacock of a man, simply strutted and karate-chopped his way into our hearts; and his Billy was nice palate cleanser to the dense emotional and musical extravaganza of a show.
We could go on and on about the subtle things that make this show a winner: the rustic stage, dotted with musical instruments that worked perfectly for the production; the way the musicians slyly join into certain songs, so that what started out as a duet between Guy and Girl by song’s end becomes an orchestra of sound; the deft use of lighting to convey mood, a place, and a feeling (wow, Christina Munich, wow), the interesting choreography (by Lisette Glodowski) — it was all unexpected sugar on top of the cake that made this show spectacular.
Thank you, each and every one of the folks associated with this fine show. This is the type of production that will put Raleigh stage productions on the map. It is one of our finest hours.
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. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 6th Triangle Review review by Robert O’Connell, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2018/09/first-rate-acting-and-superb-musicianship-make-theatre-raleighs-once-a-must-see-musical/.)
Theatre Raleigh presents ONCE at 8 p.m. Sept. 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).
BOX OFFICE: 919-832-9997, firstname.lastname@example.org, or https://theatreraleigh.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0S61000005BziPEAS.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-832-9997 or email@example.com.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBrPHqUNhtfRMWQ2Ej8Fxeg.
2018 SUMMER SERIES: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/subscribe/.
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheatreRaleigh/, https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBrPHqUNhtfRMWQ2Ej8Fxeg.
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).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.