Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

42nd Street Moon
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's reviews of A Chorus Line and Rent

Olivia Clari Nice and Corbin Mayer
Photo by Ben Krantz Studio
From the moment she walks on stage in Once, now playing at the Gateway Theatre in a 42nd Street Moon production, Girl (Olivia Clari Nice) is clearly in charge of everything that happens from that moment forward. We first see her when she comes across Guy (Corbin Mayer) busking on a Dublin street corner with his guitar, singing a song he wrote, "Leave." The song—and Guy's passionate performance of it—captivates Girl. Guy is a Dubliner, a somewhat depressed young man working in his father's vacuum repair business, mooning over the loss of his girlfriend who decamped to New York some months earlier, and ready to give up music. Girl is Czech, living in Dublin with her mother and daughter, also a musician and, coincidentally, has a Hoover that needs fixing. With charm and tenacity, she coaxes Guy out of his shell, convincing him not only to fix her vacuum but to take his music more seriously.

Once (music and lyrics by Glen Hansard Markéta Irglová; book by Enda Walsh) is based on the film of the same name and has much of the same romantic charm—and lots of music, including the lovely, haunting "Falling Slowly," which was a bit of a hit when the film came out and won the Academy Award for Best Song. Plus, during pre-show, the cast performs a range of music, including Irish and Czech folk songs, and you can buy a glass—or at least a red Solo cup—of Guinness to complete the Irish pub feeling of the set designed by Brian Watson.

There's so much to like about this show—not the least of which is 42nd Street Moon securing the rights to a Tony-winning show so soon after its Broadway run and road company stop here a few years ago. Then there's the joyous and heartfelt music coming from the cast of 13, all of whom play instruments (guitar, fiddle, cello, mandolin, drums, tambourine) and sing and stomp their way through more than a dozen numbers. Their harmonies are lovely, making them the best chorus 42nd Street Moon has ever assembled.

But all those pale in comparison to the accomplished and compelling performance of Olivia Clari Nice as Girl. Just as her character seizes control of the show from the opening moments, so too does Nice seize control of our hearts and minds with a lovely, nuanced, deeply textured portrayal of Girl, a bloom-where-she's-planted sort of woman who makes the very best of every situation in which she finds herself. "Life is good. Even in Dublin," she says. Her accent is sweet and endearing, and she displays an innocence that somehow melds with her confidence to create a most wonderful portrayal. Physically, she moves in ways that make it seem gesture is a second language to her that she also speaks with an accent.

As Guy, Corbin Mayer manages a pretty decent Irish accent (kudos to dialect coach Nancy Carlin) and a gruff, guarded air that is tune with his character. His singing can be both delicate and driving, sometimes reaching up into high registers with a guttural cry that makes you want to stroke his head and tell him everything will ultimately be okay.

Once—in this laudable production—is one of those shows you may want to see twice.

Once, through June 30, 2019, at 42nd Street Moon, Gateway Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco CA. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 6:00pm, with matinees Sundays at 3:00pm. Tickets are $28-$75, available at, or by calling 415-255-8207.

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