Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Broward Center: Once (5 reviews)

once3The National Tour of the musical Once opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on October 6, 2015.
Featuring an impressive ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments onstage, ONCE tells the enchanting tale of a Dublin street musician who's about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. As the chemistry between them grows, his music soars to powerful new heights... but their unlikely connection turns out to be deeper and more complex than your everyday romance.
John Tiffany directed a cast that included Stuart Ward, Dani de Waal, and a bunch of people they won’t list in any fashion we can easily post here.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
The musical Once now at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, part of the Broadway in Fort Lauderdale series, is one of those immersive theater experiences. It’s supposed to be and it is. It’s a love story about music, muses, heartbreak, discovery, and how humans relate on many levels – as families, as wives, mothers, daughters, brothers, sons, and neighbors.
What’s so electric about Once, besides some incredible songs, including the Academy Award winning Falling Slowly from the film, is that the actors double as the on-stage orchestra. No musicians in the pit in this musical.
It features a talented cast and its two leads, Stuart Ward as Guy and Dani de Waal as Girl, have a captivating chemistry... Ward starts off slow with a lonesome growl – intimate and bold at the same time – then lets loose and the show is off and running. Before the national tour, Ward performed understudy to the lead role in London’s West End production of Once, and it shows. This guy knows Guy. From beginning to end, he captures the essence of the brooding singer, a man who feels he has nothing left. The portrayal is realistic and conveyed with a painful honesty.
Dani de Waal as Girl, who wows Guy with her mastery of Mendelssohn, gives her character an infusion of quiet reserve. She’s icy enough to convince that she’s Czech, but has a way of exuding a subtle warmth that can make you see why Guy would want her to run away with him. The two create an interesting contrast.
Other standouts are Evan Harrington as the burly teddy bear and music store owner, Billy; Tina Stafford as Girl’s bold, storytelling mother, Baruska, and Jon-Alex MacFarlane as the bank manager whose delivery of his original song, Abandoned in Bandon, is one of the comic highlights.
John Tiffany’s direction is masterful… Folksy, intimate, and warmly fulfilling, Once is as intoxicating as a shot of Irish whiskey. The buzz remains long after the hummable Falling Slowly reprise.
Kathryn Ryan wrote for Edge Miami:
As delicate as an iridescent bubble before it bursts, the musical Once fascinates onstage at the Broward Center. The story unfolds slowly but never drags as there are exuberant scenes full of both tension and mirth as well as quiet moments when the only sound is the actors' breathing. The direction, vocals and visual appeal make the play worth the trip to the performing arts center.
The cast does double duty as both actors and musicians. Dani de Waal in the part of Girl both plays piano and sings beautifully, especially in her solo "The Hill." She also harmonizes well with Guy, Stuart Ward, a British actor appearing on the American stage via an exchange agreement with Actor's Equity. The audience is fortunate for this arrangement as his voice and guitar playing are spot on. Their signature duet is the awarding winning song, "Falling Slowly." What the actors lack in sexual chemistry they more than compensate for in musicality.
The rest of the thirteen-member cast, with the exception of Sarah McKinley Austin in the role of Girl's daughter, plays various instruments including: accordion, upright bass, violin, cello, ukulele and banjo. Notable among them is Matt DeAngelis who not only plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, drum set and percussion, but also adds comic relief in his role as Svee, an off-the-wall Czech friend of Girl.
The stage pictures by director John Tiffany are created with careful attention to detail. His stage movements are measured and perfectly timed. The transitions between the play's multiple locations are seamless, blending into the action without effort.
Once is truly a love story, but the object of the affection is the music itself. The music, then, motivates the action in more ways than one in this new style musical. Don't miss the chance to share in this life affirming experience at the Broward Center's Au Rene Theatre.
Connie Ogle reviewed wrote for the Miami Herald:
…the latest stage production of Once is undeniably a charmer. Carney’s 2006 movie was simple and straightforward, while the stage version puts some strain on the boy-meets-girl story by stretching it out to a proper Broadway musical running time. But hearing the songs live — wrenching, buoyant, moving — and watching the exuberant cast dance this familiar tune more than makes up for the stretch.
While filmmaker Carney  focused solely on the two leads, the stage Once adds characters to flesh out the script, not a bad conceit in general, although some of the exchanges still feel like padding. De Waal’s character is a bit too flip and perky, but still, when she and Ward and the rest of the ragtag band perform When Your Mind’s Made Up, you’re left breathless and thrilled, reminded again how notes strung together in the right order can wring your heart.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
There is hardly another Broadway musical that is as chillaxed as “Once.”  Showtime arrives, but no curtain rises. There’s no fanfare overture. About five minutes later, the songs, quietly and organically, take center stage. Seven minutes later, the house lights dim, and the cast ease us into the show.
Hit songs such as “Falling Slowly,” “If You Want Me,” “Say It to Me Now,” “Gold” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” are beautifully and soulfully rendered by the cast of actor-musicians, all whirling around the stage playing different parts and moving tables and chairs into different formations to suggest various locales. The two leads have real chemistry, at first deadpan and guarded (from which much of the show’s humor is derived) and then warm and glowing. Ward’s voice has a fiery wail and a mournful yelp, while de Waal’s curls through the mammoth Broward Center like smoke from an expensive European cigarette.
As with its beginning, “Once” eases into its conclusion with the same delicacy. The cumulative effect is deeply affecting and unforgettable.
Kevin Studer wrote for Boca Magazine:
Every so often a show comes along that challenges the accepted conventions of theater. There’s something so different about it that it creates an experience that you won’t soon forget. “Once” is exactly that show.
What makes the show so different is the staging. The set, a pub in Dublin, never changes, and only set pieces are moved to reflect different locations. The cast moves the set pieces in time to the music as the change occurs. Their choreography is so fluid that the scenic changes are often as entertaining as the scenes themselves.
Ward and de Waal captivate the audience with their charm and talent. While at times Ward’s voice overpowers de Waal’s, the two create a storyline that makes you root for their characters to end up together. The timing of their jokes, their instrumental skills and dedication to the characters is stunning.
The National Tour of Once plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through October 18, 2015.

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