ONCE comes alive at the Gateway Theatre

Olivia Clari Nice as Girl and Corbin Mayer as Guy in 42nd Street Moons production of ONCE at the Gateway Theatre

ONCE: Musical. Book by Enda Walsh Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Directed and choreographed by Cindy Goldfield.  42nd Street Moon, San Francisco’s Gateway Theatre (215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA. (415) 255-8207 or www.42ndstmoon.org

June 12 – 30, 2019 Opens June 15.

ONCE comes alive at the Gateway Theatre Rating: ★★★★★

42nd Street Moon has departed from its usual format of presenting fresh productions of old musicals to mounting the Bay Area regional premiere of 2012’s Tony Award-winning “Best Musical” ONCE. Based on the 2007 motion picture written and directed by John Carney. ONCE features a book by Enda Walsh (2012 Tony Award-winner, “Best Book of a Musical”) and a score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (including the 2008 Academy Award-winning song “Falling Slowly”). It is an ambitious undertaking and they have come up with a stunning production that received a standing ovation.

The title Once could appropriately begin with “Once upon a time” since it has a marvelous fairytale quality of boy meets girl and a relationship develops between Guy (Corbin Mayer) and Girl (Olivia Clari Nice ) with disparate ethnicities but with each having a love of music. Then set the place as Ireland and populate the scene with characters having a love for life and music. For added brilliance use actors who play their own the instruments while acting. Those are the bare “facts” of Once that earns accolades adding to an unforgettable score that includes the award winning “Falling Slowly.”

Guy is a disillusioned song writer guitarist who is heartbroken when his ex-girlfriend (Christina Owens) has left for New York City. As he sings the plaintive “Leave” and leaves his guitar behind. Czech immigrant Girl rescues him and his guitar with her charming, passionate yet  unassuming interest in his music “Falling Slowly.” Guy works with his father Da (Colin Thompson) in a vacuum cleaner repair shop. As it just happens, Girl has a vacuum cleaner that “doesn’t suck” and needs repair. And a bond between them begins.

She plays the piano and has a group of musician friends who frequent a pub and a music store. These friends all play their own instrument while doing their acting and deftly move the furniture as each scene changes. There is a pre-show musical bash to warm up the audience setting the tenure for what is to be.

An interesting touch has Baruska (Ariela Morgenstern) Girl’s mother tell the story in Czech with her words projected on the back wall. As the relationship between Guy and Girl develops into a love affair that will never be consummated the other characters come to life adding to the marvelous ambiance that flows and stomps from the stage.

Mayer and Nice are not new comers to their roles and they handle the “non-romantic leads” so perfectly that the final scenes radiate truth and bring a lump to your throat that is disspated with the final scene to wrap up the show on a hopeful note. To single out individual performances for honors may be unfair since every member of this suburb cast deserve honors.

That being said my favorite is the Bank Manager (Matt Davis) in a dead end job yet desirous of being a performing musician. His confrontation with “South Dubliner”  Billy (Rob Ready) will have you choosing sides. Pathos is injected with the role Andrej  (Brady Morales-Woolery) whose desire is become owner of a fast-food franchise. Colin Thomson is always a solid performer giving pathos to his brief songs with facial expressions befitting his role as Da.

(From L) Rob Ready, Matt Davis, Brady Morales-Woolery

In summary it is a boisterous show with heart that has quiet moments to balance the evening. The stage and musical direction by Cindy Goldfield and Eryn Allen respectively are greatly aided by the entire creative staff making this a must see production. Running time about two hours and 20 minutes with an intermission.

CAST: ONCE will feature Emma Berman as “Ivonka,” Matt Davis as “Bank Manager,” Ben Euphrat as “Svec,” Devin Renee Kelly as “Reza,” Corbin Mayer as “Guy,” Brady Morales Woolery* as “Andrej,” Ariela Morgenstern* as “Baruska,” Bryan Munar as “Eamon,” Olivia Nice* as “Girl,” Christina Owens as “Ex-Girlfriend,” Rob Ready as “Billy,” Colin Thomson* as “Da” and Myra Chachkin as “Emcee.” 

CREATIVE TEAM: Ms. Cindy Goldfield as director, choreography and costumer designer; Eryn Allen musical director; Michael Palumbo as Lighting Designer; Brian Watson as Scenic Designer; Travis Rexroat as Sound Designer/Mic Operator; Lauren Howry as Assistant Stage Manager and Alicia Lerner as Stage Manager

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

From L) Rob Ready, Matt Davis, Brady Morales-Woolery