Tuesday, 04 November 2014 13:52

Once: An Atypical Love Story

Written by  Allison Parker
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Once Once Courtesy Photo

 Once
Broadway Grand Rapids
DeVos Performance Hall
Nov. 4-9, show times at 1,2, 6:30, 7:30 & 8 p.m.
$30-$75
broadwaygrandrapids.com, (616) 235-6285

 Guy meets girl.

Audiences have come to expect this universal story at the core of many Broadway musicals. Often, however, it is not so much the romantic relationship that draws people toward a particular show. Rather, it is the packaging around the relationship—the exotic sets, spectacular costumes and dizzying special effects that reel in audiences.

Minimalist and understated, the musical Once flies in face of this tradition. For Once, it’s the special character chemistry that is the focus. All attention is directed toward the two protagonists and the glorious music that showcases their tender, raw emotions.

Our story begins with the aptly named male protagonist, ‘Guy,’ a Dublin busker who has just lost his musical inspiration, along with his girlfriend. Along comes Girl, a young Czech who rekindles Guy’s songwriting spark and perhaps something else as well. As Guy’s musical career begins to flourish, Girl suggests Guy use his success to move to New York and win back his ex-girlfriend. While Guy and Girl both develop feelings for each other, Once refuses to tie their storyline up in a neat bow, instead opting to conclude the story in a bittersweet way more representative of actual human experience.

“It’s a very simple story, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity,” said Zander Meisner, who understudies several roles in the show. “You are never going to be pinned back to your seat with huge amplification and wild costumes. … It’s definitely a more intimate piece. It’s more the type of show you’re going to want to lean in and catch its subtleties. … It’s really a very human story.”

Guy and Girl’s atypical romance has swept audiences and critics alike off their feet, beginning with the Academy-Award-winning Irish film of the same title. Since the film’s adaptation into a musical in 2011, Once has earned an impressive array of awards, including the Tony for Best Musical.

Critics have praised the musical for its emotional poignancy in particular, an aspect intensified by the audience’s immersion into Guy and Girl’s world. In order to effectively suck theatergoers into the events onstage, Once leaves the show’s musical performances entirely in the hands of the actors.

“[Once] kind of breaks ground to give you an all-encompassing musical experience,” Meisner said. “It’s great that they’ve created theatre where there isn’t a disconnect at all between the songs and the actor creating it. And that’s why I think this is a really great, new, different theatrical experience. Because everyone onstage creates all of the sounds that you hear, and so it’s a kind of ephemeral experience—very subtle and nuanced that I don’t think a standard musical can create.”

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millerauditorium.org, (269) 387-2300

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