In Play Reviews

Walking into Broadway Rose Theatre to see Once (book by Edna Walsh), one is transformed to a Dublin street set. A  jolly bunch of musicians/actors play fiddles, guitars, and an accordion on stage and in front of it. There’s laughter and joking as audience members roam the stage and talk to the cast. Outdoor tables next to brick buildings provide audience seating. Even before the play begins, we know we’re in Dublin.

Jam session with the cast of Once. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer.

Guy (Morgan Hollingsworth), a guitar player and songwriter, meets Girl (Marissa Neitling) as he is winding up busking on the streets of Dublin. He’s ready to give it up. His ex-girlfriend (Tara Velarde) has moved to New York. He’s lonely and disillusioned. She’s left him and his career is going nowhere.

Girl is a Czech immigrant, a music-savvy young woman who plays piano and wants to get her “hoover” fixed. She’s met the right guy; Guy works in his father’s vacuum cleaner repair shop. But she’s more interested in his music. Over the course of a few days, the two form an unlikely alliance. Girl gives Guy the kick in the rear he needs to take another serious look at his music. The two begin to write music together and fall for each other, but there are complications.

Morgan Hollingsworth and Marissa Neitling in Once. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer.

There’s  the delightful melding of Irish and immigrant Czech communities. Heartfelt music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, filled  with love, loss, and longing, are poignant and profoundly beautiful. Mix that in with some traditional Irish and Czech tunes, and you’ve got a show!

Based on the 2007 motion picture written and directed by John Carney, the 2011 Broadway musical Once features the same music and story line. Other members of the cast include Jeff Rosick as Eamon (mandolin), Collin Carver as Andrej (violin and cello), Duffy Epstein as Da (guitar, melodica, percussion), Kymberli Colbourne as Baruska (accordion, percussion), Matthew Henry Curl as Bank Manager (guitar, ukelele, and cello), Dustin Fuentes as Svec (guitar, drumset, percussion), Jahnavi Alyssa as Reza (violin), Eva Hudson Leoniak as Ivonka, Andrew Maldarelli as Billy (guitar and mandolin), and Jay Tatco-Nowak as Emcee (guitar and electric bass).

Morgan Hollingsworth and Marissa Neitling. Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer.

This wonderful and talented cast of fine voices and musicianship is directed by Isaac Lamb, who also choreographed the show, with music direction by Eric Nordin. Scenic design is by Emily Wilken; costumes by Jamie Hammon; lighting design by Carl Faber; properties design by Liz Carlson; sound design by Brian Karl Moen; production manager, Jeff Duncan; technical direction by Phil McBeth; stage manager, Jessica Junor.

The play runs through October 27, but all performances are s0ld out. To get on a waiting list, contact the theatre.

Meanwhile, Broadway Rose has announced its public phases of fundraising for expansion of the theatre. This will allow for a separate rehearsal facility, which means that when plays are sold out from the get-go, performances may be added. The new studio space also will allow for camps and workshops, special events and performances, and other forms of community engagement. A costume shop, enlarged scenic shop, and additional office space will be added as well.

As of September, this exciting project was 70 percent funded! The public is invited to contribute to the expansion. Groundbreaking is planned for April, 2020.

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