By Claire DeMarco
Guy (David Toole) is a singer/lyricist living in Dublin. He strums his guitar and sings to passersby, hoping to catch a few euro in his open guitar case propped beside him.
One of those passersby is Girl (Kate Queen), a Czech citizen separated from her husband. Working close by she hears and enjoys his music and begins a conversation with Guy.
Guy and Girl have something more in common than their mutual love of music (she plays the piano). He sells sweepers to support himself and she has one that needs repaired.
Note: There’s obviously a vacuum in their lives!
In order to pay for the sweeper repairs, Girl decides she’ll play piano for him in the piano store owned by Billy (Jack Boice).
As their music binds them closer together, Guy confesses that his former girlfriend left him and is now in New York. The lyrics in his songs reflect that despair.
It’s apparent to Girl that Guy does not have any confidence in himself or his music so she becomes his biggest cheerleader. Full of life she prods him into taking chances. Through her encouragement she pushes him to make a CD of his works and contact a local bank for funds to help promote his songs. The money also provides a means to get to New York (possibly to his ex-girlfriend).
Guy and Girl make several suggestions as to how their lives will proceed, with or without each other. Does Guy go to New York? Does Girl reconcile with her husband? Do we even know for sure?
Toole plays a perfect Guy. He develops his character from the rather shy, dejected soul into one who grows exponentially as he regains lost confidence and sets future goals. His guitar playing and vocal presentations are spot on.
Queen shines as the Czech immigrant who is assertive, opinionated and bold. She also brings out the soft side of Girl. She is a skilled pianist with a lovely singing voice.
Both Toole and Queen provide a tender rendition of “Falling Slowly”.
Boice provides both serious and comedic moments. His characterization of Billy fluctuates between loud mouth anger to silly mannerisms and funny moments. Proud of his bit of Spanish ancestry, he often invokes the physical movements of a Spanish dancer in response to a question or comment.
It is the music itself from the entire cast that is the heart of “Once”. All of the actors play an instrument, dance and sing to perfection. It is amazing that these musicians are able to play their instruments, dance while playing, all in unison.
Note: It is especially fascinating to see the cello player with the other musicians as they all lift their instruments up while playing and dancing at the same time! Kudos to Music Director Dr. Francesca Tortorello.
A wonderful production of a Tony award winning musical!
Once is at Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s Gargaro Theater, 327 S. Main St., West End, March 9-April 2. For tickets and info click here.