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BROADWAY SAN JOSE’s   “ONCE”
Has the music but needs the "chemistry"
By Iride Aparicio

Photos Courtesy: Charles Zukow Associates

STUART WARD and DANI deWALL
             STUART WARD and DANI deWALL

SAN JOSÉ, CA –   Written by Academy-Awards Winners ENDA WALLSH, with music and lyrics by GLEN HANSARD and  MARKÉTA IRGLOVÁ,  the Irish musical, “Once,”  winner of 8 Tonys® including the one for  “Best Musical,”  arrived at the San José Center for the Performing Arts where is being presented as a BROADWAY SAN JOSE Nederlander Presentation, from April 21 to April 26.

The musical is based on the  2007 Awards-winning film by the same name, winner of several film’s awards. Among them:  Independent Spirit Award and the Best Falling film.  The music from the film is also an Awards winner. One of its songs “Falling Slowly” won the  2007  Oscar® as the Best Original Song,  and in 2013 the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album.

The story takes place in Dublin, Ireland, and its two main characters are:  Girl that is being played by DANI de WAAL who also plays the piano, and Guy (STUART WARD) who plays the guitar. 

Because this musical requires an ensemble of musicians playing characters and different musical instruments through out the whole show, CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL will list their names alphabetically: Svec (MATT De ANGELIS) playing Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Drum Set and Percussion. Eamon (JOHN STEVEN GARDNER) playing piano, Guitar, Percussion, Melodica, and Harmonica. Billy played that night by JOSHUA CARTER  playing Guitar, Percussion and Ukulele. Emcee  (RYAN LINK)  Playing Guitar and Banjo. Bank Manager (BENJAMIN MAGNUSON) playing cello and guitar. Andrej (ALE NEE) playing Electric bass, Ukulele, Guitar, and Percussion. Ex-Girfriend (ERICA SPYRES) Violin, and Percussion. Baruska (TINA STAFFORD) Accordion and Concertina. Reza (ERICA SWINDELL) Violin. Da (SCOTT WAARA) Mandolin.

 The Ensemble of musicians from the tour of “ONCE”
The Ensemble of musicians from the tour of “ONCE”

As a musical, “ONCE” is “unique” in several ways.  One of them, is that the musical requires that all its actors act, sing, and dance well, and are able to play several musical instruments. In its dramatic structure: the musical is a love story but because it is about "forbidden," love, it is not shown physically by either one of the two main characters. So their love must must be interpreted to the audience by showing their "chemestry" to each other when they are together. Another “unique” aspect of the musical is that the characters “talk” to each other with music, and express their feeling in songs. Because of it, their songs change in moods from romantic songs, to songs of frustration, to sad songs to “angry” songs, in seconds. 

The action in the musical takes place in Ireland in a single set, which represents many places, from an Irish pub, to a music store where all the musicians get together to living apartments. Because the "love story" of Guy and Girl (pictured left), is unusual, it is harder to understand in the musical than it was on the film. What made it more difficult in this Tour, however, was that the diction of the principal actors when they sing their songs' lyrics because they are not clear. One reason is that Guy (as an actor) is trying to imitate  the Irish accent, and Girl a Czechoslovakian accent. As actprs. both are good in their acting roles. As a singer, Girl (de WALL) has a lovely singing voice and plays the piano well and with a lot of feeling. Guy (WARD) plays the guitar masterfully and sings with ease which is wonderful STUART WARD and DANI deWALL

because  “ONCE” demands that their principal actors sing many songs that like the chapters of a book serve the purpose to tell the audience  a story of their past and present. So, for the audience to be able to understand the musical they needed to understand the lyrics. This was not always possible to do on opening night because of poor diction on the part of the singers.

And there were many songs on this show, with a mixture of Irish and Gaelic rhythms, interpreted masterfully by the cast in their different instruments, with SWINDEL and SPYKES getting notice for their violins playing

The only thing that was lacking in the show on opening night, was the "chemistry" between the two princiapl characters. The “feeling” could be felt in  de WAAL’s songs, (Girl) and in some of their duets with WARD which sounded lovely, but as a singer WARD was more able to show the audience his “rage” in songs like “Leave” (that opens the show) “Broken-Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy  and When you made Up Your Mind,  than his “love” for the Girl. One reason was than in a few of his romantic songs, he played the chords in his guitar so loud that their sound overpowered his lyrics making them difficult to understand. Another reason was that in his "rage" songs (those songs he sings when he is upset) the fast beat and voulume of his chords made the Irish melodies sound like hard Rock. WARD is a good singer, but his guitar player, on that night, specially in his love songs, needed to be softer, interpreted with more feeling,to allow the audience to sense the “chemistry” between him and the Girl.

So, with wonderful music, the story of “ONCE” was told again to the San Jose Audience. They love it. It got a lontg standing ovation.

The musical will play until April 26th to get information or buy tickets go to: http://broadwaysanjose.com/once/