Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Theater Review: Broadway’s Once: A New Musical

Filed under: Performing Arts,UCF News and Event — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:32


Love can never be an easy road to travel in life. And despite the traditional depiction of love as roses, violets, and happy endings in other forms of entertainment, it rarely is depicted on the stage as an easy feat. And for the new gorgeously lush and moving musical Once, that is certainly true. The show is based on a 2006 independent film of the same title that I have never seen. It also garnered praise and won an Academy Award for Best Song for “Falling Slowly,” the reprisal of which in this show will send chills up and down your spine and really tug on your heartstrings. Once originated off-Broadway and the transition to the Great White Way seems to have been seamless.

While the staging is simple and basic (but don’t misinterpret that– it’s not nearly as barren and plain as one of my least favorite productions Chicago), the real star of the show is its two lead actors and the music itself. The story takes place in Dublin, Ireland; and the characters of the show are relatively nameless. Boy (played perfectly by Steve Kazee) is a young love-jaded Irish man who has just decided to give up his musical ambitions when he meets Girl (played flawlessly by Christi Milioti, who is sure to be Tony nominated for her performance) who promises him she can help him realize his musical talents and bring his music to life. As the two set-off on their musical journey accompanied by a very talented ensemble, all of whom are musicians who also serve as the orchestra for the show, love ensues as deep secrets of each one’s past comes to the surface.

Steve Kazee’s performance as Boy is unbelievably fantastic.  His voice is rich and melodic and he brings the Irish music of the score absolute authenticity and transports the audience to Ireland. He is also a phenomenal actor, who shows that behind his beautiful and powerful voice, is a true talent for bringing his character to life. The same can all be equally said for Christi Milioti, who so perfectly plays the role of Girl that I had to ask my partner if she was really Czech. Her voice is both soft and resonant and the character she plays requires a certain type of strong yet caring personality that Miloti nails to a T! And the ensemble should be also be lauded (although Anne L. Nathan, who plays Mother, needs a little more dialect work). The stars of the show also do an Irish jam session thirty minutes prior to each performance. And the audience is welcome on-stage to dance, sing, and enjoy some time with the cast. The start of the show is something to really pay attention to; make sure you’re in your seat 5 minutes before showtime to really appreciate how it’s done.

I must close by saying that one of the best surprises of Once (beyond the amazing and incredibly touching show itself) is actor Ben Hope, who is a member of the ensemble. Hope is a graduate of the BFA in Theater Performance Program at the University of Central Florida (UCF), which is of course my Alma Mater, current employer, and University I love so much. This is the first Broadway show where I have seen a UCF Alum in the cast. I’ve seen a handful of UCF Alums in various tours throughout the years, but never on Broadway. Congratulations to Mr. Hope, who is representing the Black & Gold with pride with his every performance of Once at the Jacobs Theater on Broadway in New York City!

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