Winner of 8 Tony Awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, Once is a show not to be missed. Having no familiarity with the original production or movie from which it was based, I found myself thoroughly entertained and captivated by the thirteen actor cast. Although the rating was PG13 for occasional coarse language and adult themes, I attended with my 10-year-old daughter who is a vocalist interested in musical theater, and she was mesmerized.
Once is a story of love, hope, and community set in Dublin, Ireland. The set is a typical Irish Pub which doubles as an actual bar during intermission and after the show. The lead male, Michael Louis Cusimano, a BFA graduate of Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, known only as “Guy” is heartbroken over his girlfriend who has moved to New York City. As he is playing his guitar and singing on the street corner, “Girl”, played by Caitie Grady (who has been cast in over 30 Lamb’s Players productions since 2010), approaches him asking questions about his song and its background. Girl discovers that Guy repairs vacuum cleaners at his father’s shop and tells him that she is has a “Hoover that won’t suck.” She asks if he will repair it in exchange for her musical performance. He agrees. The vacuum repair and her piano performance lead to an attraction and feelings between the two which Girl denies as she is in an estranged marriage. It is Girl’s vision to see Guy make it big with his music so she uses her connections to get funding and studio time to record. Guy’s father gives him money to go to New York when the recording is finished. Although Guy asks Girl to go with him, she instead insists that he call his previous girlfriend who has not moved on and misses him dearly and is excited he is on the way. In gratitude, Guy gives money to the music store owner who helped him along the way and has a bow put on a piano for Girl.
The cast is riddled with talented musicians. In this musical, the cast performs as the orchestra of predominantly stringed instruments. Mandolin, ukulele, guitar, upright bass, electric bass and violins accompanied by an accordion, beatboxes, a variety of drums and the piano bring the songs to life. The choreography of set changes was done to music and in such a way that I overheard another theatergoer comment, “I am so impressed with how they change the sets as part of the production to the music.”
One of the funniest lines repeated a couple of times from Girl is her response to “Are you serious?” She says, “I am always serious, I am Czech” in an authentic Czech accent, which elicits bursts of laughter from the audience. The voice of Coronado resident and Associate Artistic Director, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, who plays Baruska, Girl’s mother, is incredible as is her performance as my favorite cast member in this production.
This show is not to be missed! We loved it.
ONCE – THE MUSICAL playing at Lamb’s Players Theatre through July 22.
For tickets, call the box office at 619.437.6000 or visit https://www.lambsplayers.org/once-show-details
music & lyrics by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
book by Enda Walsh
directed by Kerry Meads
musical direction by G. Scott Lacy
choreography by Colleen Kollar Smith