Modern musicals tend to differ in formula. They are a more raw and realistic look at human stories, creating their own ideas of what a happy ending should be. “Once” falls into that category.
“Once” is the complicated love story of an Irish guy and Czechoslovakian girl. After Guy’s girlfriend leaves him in Dublin to move to New York, he is left in a broken and depressed state. It is not until Girl hears him playing music that his life begins to move along. She helps him pursue and follow his dreams. The show is rounded by the loving and crazy family and friends of Guy and Girl who help them along their journey.
The state premiere of “Once” at Midtown Arts Center has high expectations after winning eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Book on Broadway. It’s Irish music mixed with Czech music. A unique sound unlike other musicals, from a plethora of soothing songs like “Gold” or “Falling Slowly” to upbeat and ethnic songs like “Ej, Pada, Pada.”
“Once” also requires extra work from its actors. The performers on stage are also the orchestra. Each character has an instrument that they play on the edge of the stage.
This is can be a risky musical to produce. Its unique sound, mixed with the slower and more emotional plot line and the fact that the actors are also the orchestra, are unusual aspects that can pose issues. If not done correctly it can sound clunky and look uncoordinated. But if a theater is able to pull it off it can have a large reward in the quality of art created.
Midtown Arts Center beautifully brings together this production, giving “Once” the introduction to Colorado it deserves.
Barry DeBois and Elena Juliano play Guy and Girl, perfectly portraying the lovers crossing-in-the-night story. They are both stoic, broken and with the help of others, open their hearts only to realize that their relationship simply could not work. Their renditions of “Falling Slowly” awakes the soul and brings a tear to every eye.
These stunning actors performed the music flawlessly, making your soul leap with every note. Scenic design by Mickey Burdick were a treat for the eyes and helped create this encompassing world.
The choreography presented a small problem with a performance that made the cast lookout of sync with each other, making it slightly distracting.
“Once” marks another beautiful production for Midtown Arts Center, setting the bar high for what a regional theater company can do with this emotional, unique and challenging musical.
“Once” at Midtown Arts Center ***½ (out of four)
“Once” is now playing at Midtown Arts Center, 3750 S Mason St, Fort Collins, CO 80525, CO. Directed by Kurt Terrio. Starring: Barry DeBois and Elena Juliano. Through Nov. 11. Tickets start at $54. For tickets visit midtownartscenter.com or 970-225-2555.