Review by: Ed Goodman 2/4/2014
Tony and Oscar Winning "Once"
now open at Arsht Center
If ever there was a living, breathing definition of the maxim “less is more” it’s embodied in the musical “Once”, now on stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.
(Stuart Ward and Dani De Waal)
Based on the 2006 film, “Once” is set in a Dublin pub and quite simply is a love story between “Guy” (Stuart Ward), a can’t-seem-to-get-it-together musician and “Girl” (Dani De Waal), a Czech immigrant who shares his love for music. As can be the case in real life, sparks fly immediately and the two make wonderful music together. Music can unite the body and soul - and it surely does in this remarkably simple, yet complex show.
The show on the surface is about how music can bring and keep love together – at least for a while. The music creates raw, powerful life emotions that are a songwriter’s greatest source of material. Underneath the simple premise though, is the struggle most all of us go through looking for that place filled with understanding, happiness, sorrow, failure, success and love. The songwriter's fantasy versus life's reality.
(L-R: Alex Nee, Matt DeAngelis, Stuart Ward, Evan Harrington,
Benjamin Manguson and Dani De Waal)
The pub setting is the perfect place to let the story unfold (how many times has that happened in real life?). The show's passionate and riveting music is wonderfully showcased by a group of musician/actors who are their own orchestra, playing everything from pianos, guitars, violins and cellos to accordions. The tempo of most of the songs reminded me of Irish folk ballads full of heartfelt lyrics exploring deep feelings echoing the loneliness of a love lost - or at least - displaced.
Both Ward and De Waal bring real vocal chops to the show. Thank goodness for that, since their dialogue is rather mundane and predictable compared to their music. But the music is the true vehicle here and they make the most of their considerable talents particularly on “Falling Slowly”, “If You Want Me”, “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and her beautifully realized “The Hill”.
That said, the ensemble cast is terrific as well. The leads need no help, but they get it big time with great work from a talented group of musicians and singers. You could have heard a pin drop during their A capella version of “Gold” and the finale of “Falling Slowly” was beautiful.
For me, I would have preferred to see this show in a smaller venue. It’s a quiet, thoughtful piece and even though the Arsht is a great space, I feel you lose the intimacy and the nuances of the accents in a show like "Once" when its too spread out. Nothing we can do about that, obviously, although less would have been truly more for this fine show.
(L-R: Alex Nee, Stuart Ward, Matt DeAngelis,
Dani De Waal, Evan Harrington)
The show has won more awards than you count, starting with an Oscar for Best Song for "Falling Slowly". The show also won 8 Tony Awards (out of 11 nominations) including Best Musical in 2012. The haunting music and lyrics are from Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The book from award-winning Irish play and screen writer Enda Walsh.
“Once” - at the Arsht Center through Sunday February 9th.
Tickets at the box office or online at www.arshtcenter.org.
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