Opened in S.F. with a long Standing Ovation
By Iride Aparicio
Photos Credit: Joan Marcus
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – “ONCE” is a story about music, and music delights people. About dreamers, and we like to dream. And at its core, a story of a great love, and we cherish love stories. But “ONCE” teaches us things about a great love, that we may not know: that a great love can be subtle. That a great love can be silent, and that we experience a great love, only once.
Shortly after Guy, (STUART WARD) a composer, meets the girl of his dreams (DANY de WAAL) and falls in love with her, he starts transcribing all the feelings he is experiencing into musical notes; his thoughts about her, into lyrics, and he starts creating new songs. What happens to his songs and the great love that the girl sprung into his heart, is the story of “ONCE,” the musical that in association with NEW YORK THEATRE WORKSHOP is being shown (as part of the SHN "Special Engagement" shows of the 2015 season) at SHN ORPHEUM THEATRE in San Francisco.
Winner of 8 Tony’s in 2012, including one as “The Best Musical” and another for “The Best song.” The musical is based on the book written by ENDA WALSH with Music and lyrics by GLEN HANSARD and MARKÉTA IRGLOVÁ. On the stage, the story is played in a single set that represent an Irish pub, a music studio, the inside of Guy’s house and other places. The principal characters in the story are both musicians. Guy (WARD) a composer, who earn extra money singing his songs in the street. He sings well and he plays the guitar masterfully. And a girl, that we only now as "Girl" (played by de WAAL, who works as a maid cleaning houses. She plays piano, and invited by the store's owner, goes to the pianos' store every day to play their pianos to exercise her fingers for an hour. She also can sing well. The action takes place in Dublin, Ireland.
We meet Guy, who works as a Hoover Vacuum cleaner repairman with his dad when not singing at the Dublin streets, as a frustrated musician who is convinced that his songs are no good. He is planning to stop composing music. Everything changes for him when on the street he meets a Czechoslovakian young pianist (DANI deWall) who after listening to one of his songs, tells him that she likes his music. Later on, she encourages him to try to sell it by recording his own CD’s
Guy follows her advice. The process is long and they compliment each other. He writes the melodies and she harmonizes them at the piano. At times, she sings the lyrics for him, or both sing the lyrics together. In the process of making music together, they fall in love.
Most of the story takes place in the pub, and moves quickly from scene to scene. It is told in short dialogues, and in songs. There are many songs: "If you Want Me," "Say it to me Now' "When your mind is made up" and many more. They are sang by the group, A capella, or in duets by the principal characters accompanied by guitar or guitar and piano. Unlike the American Musicals, the lyrics do not necessarily move the story's action.
All the actors in “ONCE” are multi-talented. All are good actors and good musicians. Many of them play several instruments, sing, and dance. WARD, who plays Guy is songwriter. The musicians who meet at the put are: RYAN LINK (Guitar and Banjo) ALEX NEE (who plays the role of Andrej, plays the Electric Bass, the Ukulele, the Guitar and Percussion and is also Dance Captain) ERICA SPYRES ( who plays the role of Guy’s ex-girlfriend plays the Violin and Percussion) TINA STAFFORD (who plays the role of Grl’s mother plays the Accordion and the Concertina) Da (STEPHEN McINTYRE) plays the Mandolin. And Reza (ClAIRE WELLIN) plays the violin. JOHN STEVEN GARDNER is the Music Captain.
While the story in this production of “ONCE” is the same story told in the previous version of the musical, some things seem to be different. For instance the scene in which Guy visits the Girl’s house and meets Ivanka was cut in this version. There were less numbers of energetic dances by the group, and more dialogue between the two principal actors.
In her portrayal of Girl, de WALL was lovely. She acted mature for her age, at times, and childish at others. She presents her "Girl" as secure, intelligent, and as a wonderful business woman. The star is also very talented. de WALL has a nice touch when she plays the piano and plays her music with feeling. She sings well. On that night, she acted her role with realism. Understanding her dialogue and the lyrics of her songs, however, at times was difficult because she is representing a Czechoslovakian who speaks English with an accent.
As a musician, Guy (WARD) is a virtuoso guitarist. He sings well and is able convey his feelings when singing his lyrics, specially when drumming his guitar very loud because he feels frustated. The tone of his vocal instrument is pleasant. On that night, however, we could not understand his lyrics in some songs and and parts of his dialogue because, his role demands that he talks with an Irish accent. As an actor, WARD needed to show us more emotion to be able to convince us that he was deeply in love with the Girl. His body language did not indicated it when they were together. Guy did not show any tenderness toward her. He did not try to touch her hand. He did not glance tenderly at her from the distance or get closer to her when both were sitting together at the piano bench. There was nothing in his part to indicate to the audience, in a subtle way, that he was in love with this girl. The Guy we saw on that night, was aloof. A musical genius, who maybe, still hurt by his being abandoned by the woman who moved from Dublin to New York, is now a Guy unable to externalize his feelings, including love.
“ONCE” is a romantic Irish story. On its opening night in the city, the San Francisco audience loved the show.
ONCE will continue playing until November 1st at the SHN Orpheum Theatre. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit shnsf.com.