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Once

Just this once, two troubadors, Guy (Stuart Ward) and Girl (Dani de Waal), were in Dublin playing music. He is a local, recently broken up with his girlfriend, who has moved to New York City, and she is an expat Czech, living with her little girl and mom, estranged from her husband.

Stuart Ward as Guy and Dani de Waal as Girl
Stuart Ward as Guy
and Dani de Waal as Girl
Photo: Joan Marcus
This lovely story—winner of 8 Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Actor, and Best Book, and now running at the Buell—is told by 13 actor/musicians/stagehands, who remain on stage in-between appearances, in chairs along the side, serving as the orchestra and chorus.

Ward and de Waal's chemistry is palpable throughout, with the sexual tension never abating until the ending climax (pun intended), but not in the way that we likely expect, bringing renewed poignancy to the finale, a reprise of "Falling Slowly," one of the musical's feast of memorable songs. Another sweet number, "Gold," sung by Guy to Girl, becomes hauntingly beautiful reprised a capella by the chorus.

Foreground: Evan Harrington as Billy and Erica Swindell as Ex-Girlfriend; Background (Left to right): Raymond Bokhour as Da, Matt DeAngelis as Svec, Benjamin Magnuson as Bank Manager, and Ryan Link as Emcee
Foreground: Evan Harrington as Billy
and Erica Swindell as Ex-Girlfriend;
Background (L to R): Raymond Bokhour as Da,
Matt DeAngelis as Svec,
Benjamin Magnuson as Bank Manager,
and Ryan Link as Emcee
Photo: Joan Marcus
In addition to a surfeit of fine musicianship, a number of characterizations from the ensemble stand out, including Raymond Bokhour (mandolin) as Da, Donna Garner (accordion, concertina) as Baruška, and Evan Harrington (guitar, percussion, ukelele) as Billy.

Contemporary sensibilities toward the value of each relationship, however impermanent, make for a bittersweet, yet life-defining lesson for both Guy and Girl: people come into our lives for a variety of reasons, none of which we can or should presuppose; rather, each should be honored.

Denver Center Attractions presentation of Once runs through May 18th. For more information: 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org/buy-tickets.

Bob Bows

 

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