Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Tony Winning Once Tour Charms
Paramount Theatre

Stuart Ward and Dani De Waal
Expanded from its film roots, the Broadway tour of 2012 Best Musical Tony Award winner Once has breezed into Seattle's Paramount Theatre as bracing as a chilly Irish mist, and at times as rowdy as a night in a Dublin pub. But Once at its core is a romance, a bittersweet one at that. And every single actor on stage also sings and plays a musical instrument. Not in that stunt sort of way you may have seen in a John Doyle staging of Sondheim's Company or Sweeney Todd which always feels like grafted on artifice, but rather it would seem unnatural if they did it in the conventional way. Thanks to Steven Hoggett's artful and enticing movement staging, and director John Tiffany's creative work this is an evening that even old-school musical theatre purists should embrace, with lovely melodies and haunting lyrics to glide the story along.

Once is a tale in which a Dubliner called Guy (handsome, brooding and musically top-flight Stuart Ward) with music in his heart meets Czechoslovakian Girl (adorably waifish Dani De Waal in a performance will steal your heart away) with the key to unlock it. He has a girl in the U.S. which is where he's bound. She has a young daughter, dependent mother and estranged husband, yet we root for them as a couple as she encourages him to record his music. This draws in other characters who contribute to the music and the financing of the recording. Whether you agree with the outcome of the story or not (book by Enda Walsh, based on John Carney's screenplay) the performance is captivating and fresh to those unfamiliar with the film. Many of the film's songs written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, including the haunting Academy Award-winning "Falling Slowly" are included and the show adds a pre-curtain rouser of Irish folk songs that audience members are enlisted to come onstage and join in on.

Ward (on guitar) and de Waal (at the piano) have a powerful emotional and vocal chemistry in their key roles, and are offered rousing support by Raymond Bokhour, a touching presence as Guy's Da, Alex Nee as Andrej, Matt DeAngelis as Svec, and especially Benjamin Magnuson as a show-struck bank manager whose amazing, intentionally off-key feature number "Abandoned in Bandon" has to be heard to be believed.

Bob Crowley's scenic and costume designs are a minimalist marvel, and the lighting design by Natasha Katz is at times breathtakingly appealing. The sound levels and distortion on opening night obscured many of the lyrics, and that will hopefully be tended to. Such a mundane matter should not be allowed to mar such a delightful wisp of a musical.

Once runs through June 8, 2014, at the Paramount at 9th and Pine in Downtown Seattle. For tickets and performance information in Seattle, visit or contact Seattle Theatre Group at 877-STG-4TIX (877-784-4849). For more information on the tour, visit

Photo: Joan Marcus

- David Edward Hughes

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