Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Once" and Always


 Dublin Party Time in Miami

By Skip Sheffield

They are throwing a big Irish pub party through Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Arsht Center in downtown Miami. It is well worth the trip.
“Once” is based upon the movie of the same name. The small-budget Irish musical romance was my favorite movie of 2007. What made it so special was that the music was written by the two stars, who fell in love during screening.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are no longer a couple but their fairy tale romance lives on in the movie, directed by John Carney, and in the stage show, directed by John Tiffany with book by Edna Walsh.
You know right away “Once” is a different kind of show, because the action begins before the show proper. The stage is set up as an Irish bar populated with singing, dancing musicians. The audience is invited climb up onstage and mingle with the musicians and even order a drink from a functioning bar.
In the transition from movie to stage show there were several changes in the characters known simply as Guy (Stuart Ward) and Girl (Dani de Waal). Czech-born Marketa Irglova was only 17 when the movie was filmed. Irishman Glen Hansard was twice her age. The Girl is some years older than Irglova, closer in age to the Guy. As in the movie she has a daughter, but in the stage show she is older than the movie’s toddler.
The Guy has a girl who has left him, but she has gone off to New York, not London.
The Guy expresses his lovelorn vulnerable stage in his first song, “Leaving.”
British singer-musician Stuart Ward has a beautiful singing voice and very fine acoustic guitar technique.
Dani de Waal is also London-trained, and like Marketa Irglova she plays piano while singing in exquisite close harmony with Stuart Ward the Academy Award-winning theme song “Falling Slowly.”
The wonderful thing about this production is that every character sings, plays an instrument and performs closely choreographed moves. The Guy’s Da (father) is played by bewhiskered Raymond Bokhour who plays a mean mandolin. There are two lady fiddlers (Erica Swindell and Claire Wellin); multi-instrumentalist Evan Harrington, who plays the hot-headed shop owner Billy; an accordion-playing mother of the Girl (Donna Garner), a cello and guitar-playing bank manager (Benjamin Magnuson) and an all-purpose guy named Svec (Matt DeAngelis) who plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, drums and percussion.
With such a simple plot line, the play seemed padded over the movie, but if you love playing, singing, dancing and precision interaction, you should appreciate the eight Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Once’ as much as I did.
Tickets start at $26. Call 305-949-6722 or visit

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