Dubliner, John Carney, wrote and directed a sweet little indy film in 2006 called Once. It featured a simple story line with some dynamite music that reached into the hearts of not only the movie audience, but a couple of years later was expanded into a workshop theatre piece that brought The Guy and The Girl (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) and their movie story to the stage. In the stage production, Guy (Stuart Ward) is busking on the streets of Dublin. He is sad and depressed; ready to hang it all up. Czech cutie, Girl (Dani de Waal), a sweet muse, comes to the rescue and in an innocent and loving way guides Guy back to the path he has been born to travel. Ward’s guitar licks on his ‘old Martin’ with signs of big, big passionate stroking are amazing to the point of beautifully unnerving.
|Stuart Ward guitar, Dani de Waal piano. Photo credit Jamie Loeb|
Opening Night at The Pantages Theatre was loaded with celebs and a huge crowd. Somehow a drunk and his tweeter/texter girlfriend were seated next to me. That the Pantages serves adult beverages and allows them in the audience is a choice, but in this case, a choice that was distracting until Tweetie kicked over her drink and left and the drunk split before the end of act one leaving a trail of trash.
That said, the audience is encouraged to take part in the festivities on stage where a working bar is serving up drinks before the show as well as at intermission. The cast and audience mingle. House lights dim. The audience is hustled back to their seats and a rousing pre-show warm up with all the musicians/actors dancing and singing and playing their instruments commences. It’s a hootenanny. It’s street music. It’s the film come to the stage with creative bells and whistles. The bar becomes various locations, enhanced by scenic designer Bob Crowley’s well placed mirrors behind the bar giving us a double view of the action. Natasha Katz’s subtle lighting continually enhances the mood. We are transported from the streets of Dublin to Guy’s little room over the Hoover repair shop and a dozen places in between. It works. Carney’s script has been nicely expanded by Enda Walsh using again, the soaring music of Hansard and Irglova. “Falling Slowly” is irresistible. In Act II, “Gold” is sung very quietly almost like a hymn, acapella, by the entire cast.
The cast is the orchestra. The orchestra is the cast. Doubling and tripling, the talent scoops us up and transports us to Romance, Song, Subtle Nuance, Wit and a Rousing Celebration of what the Theatre, given the resources and this cast, sharing the stage, gift so generously to the audience. ONCE is a celebration of music and muse and knocking the roadblocks clean off the stage. Even in a huge venue like The Pantages, the story and the music bring the audience to its feet. Director John Tiffany and Chorographer Steve Hoggett team to move the actors / musicians through complicated paces that flow like clockwork. No wonder this show won eight Tony Awards and a Grammy for best album from a musical.
Highly recommended. Closer to the stage is a good idea.
By John Carney via Enda Walsh
THE PANTAGES THEATRE
6233 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028
Tuesday – Friday at 8PM
Saturday at 2 and 8PM
Sunday at 1 and 6:30PM
July 17 through August 10, 2014
Tickets (Starting at $25.00) and information
HollywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster.com