Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Hollywood Pantages

Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal
The 2007 film Once had many merits, including great music and charm, but one of its main virtues was that it was a small, realistic story. So of course it had to be remade into a big, more generic musical, which then of course swept the Tony Awards. The current touring production at the Pantages theater will likely entertain and emotionally affect many people, but I, unfortunately, was not one of them.

Guy (Stuart Ward) is depressed. His girlfriend has moved to America, while he's in Dublin without her. He writes and performs sad, emotionally raw songs as a street busker, where one day he's noticed by Girl (Dani de Waal). Girl thinks Guy is quite talented, and she coaxes him to come play music with her. The two hit it off, musically and otherwise, deciding to record a CD together. Their happiness may be short-lived, however, as other factors conspire to keep them from being together.

Ward does a nice job with his character, making him convincing and sympathetic, but he doesn't quite succeed with his songs, not attaining the catharsis Glen Hansard provided in the film. De Waal is the best thing in the production, not only stealing the show with her charismatic performance but impressing with her strong, clear voice. Evan Harrington has blustery fun with the comedic role of music store owner Billy, and the rest of the ensemble acquit themselves well.

Director John Tiffany does a nice job of making the one set work for many different situations, and the opening—where Guy sings "Leave" and the boisterous bar gradually recedes until the singer remains in his turmoil—works beautifully. Steven Hoggett's movement direction screams "big Broadway show" and adds an unfortunate level of showbiz to the endeavor. The most surprising disappointment, however, is the work of book writer Enda Walsh (a fine playwright under most circumstances). I understand that the filmic story was too slight to support a musical, and so Walsh has created new plot points and made Girl more of a manic pixie dream girl. In doing this, the entire play becomes more stereotypical and loses most of what made it special in the first place.

Once plays at the Hollywood Pantages through August 10, 2014. For tickets and information, see For more information on the tour, visit

Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G. Wilson, Orin Wolf Productions, Robert Cole, Executive Producer in association with New York Theatre Workshop present Once, book by Enda Walsh, music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Based on the motion picture written and directed by John Carney. Directed by John Tiffany. Scenic and Costume Design Bob Crowley; Lighting Design Natasha Katz; Music Supervisor and Orchestrations Martin Lowe; Sound Design Clive Goodwin; Movement by Steven Hoggett; Production Stage Manager Daniel S. Rosokoff.

Da: Raymond Bokhour
Girl: Dani de Waal
Švec: Matt DeAngelis
Eamon: John Steven Gardner
Baruška: Donna Garner
Billy: Evan Harrington
Emcee: Ryan Link
Bank Manager: Benjamin Magnuson
Andrej: Alex Nee
Ex-Girlfriend: Erica Swindell
Ivanka: Kolette Tetlow
Guy: Stuart Ward
Réza: Claire Wellin

Photo: Jamie Loeb

- Terry Morgan

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