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ONCE presented by Broadway in Cincinnati through Nov. 23. Click here for more information on the production. I attended the opening night performance.
It is easy to write about the technical aspects of the show. But it is when I try to go beyond that, and talk about my emotional response to the show that I start to have trouble. First of all, “emotional response” isn’t really accurate. The story, music and performances seems to open the door to your emotional-memory and allows you to re-experience your personal emotions that resonate in harmony with the action on stage.
The second song of the show, “Falling Slowly,” establishes the strong connection between the two leads, simply referred to as Guy and Girl. Through the music and the emotion, I became part of that initial connection and immediately became invested in their happiness and success.
When “Falling Slowly” is reprised as the show’s final number, it’s an amazing, heartfelt goodbye that is moving and satisfying.
The ensemble are extremely talented musicians, great entertainers and strong actors. Dani de Wall as Girl is mesmerizing to watch, and Stuart Ward is kind and charismatic as Guy. Their chemistry together is wonderful. Of the other characters in the show, Evan Harrington as Billy and Donna Garner as Baruska (Girl’s mother) were personal favorites.
ONCE is one of the most uniquely staged productions I have ever seen. The set is three walls, with a bar upstage and seating along the side walls for the ensemble, who also play all the music. It is Natasha Katz’s excellent lighting design that transforms the open space between the three walls into the various locations, at times giving an ethereal quality to a scene. The lighting also includes a few surprises you will just have to see for yourself. Director John Tiffany creates many, beautiful stage pictures and the choreographed movement by Steve Hoggett is visually captivating. Most of the scene changes are choreographed and many have their own musical accompaniment. Even the pacing has its own tempo that refuses to be rushed.
Unfortunately it’s the sound execution that kept the opening night performance from being a perfect experience. Individual mics, especially the leads, were too low. Between the accents and at times, the speed of delivery, it was difficult to understand some dialogue and even more lyrics. This was a complaint I overheard from many people during intermission.
ONCE is simply beautiful, and beautiful in its simplicity. I was enthralled and would gladly see this remarkable theatrical experience again.
My rating: 4.90 out of 5
Caveat: I have seen on social media that some people had a negative reaction to the show. The common complaint seems to the be that the stage adaptation doesn’t do justice to the movie. (That is not to say that everyone who saw the movie, didn’t enjoy the play.) I have not seen the movie I truly enjoyed the production. Make of that what you will.
I would enjoy hearing what you think about the show or my review. All I ask is that you express your opinion without attacking someone else’s opinion. You can post your comments below.