Drama. Music. Dance. Oh, and great comedy make up Once, the Broadway Across Canada musical that is showing at the NAC from October 21-26. I took my eldest for a Ladies Night Out to attend the Opening Night performance of this show.
Once is about a Dublin busker and Hoover repairman simply known in the play as “Guy” and how a woman only referred to as “Girl” helps Guy find himself after a devastating break-up. Girl helps Guy to get his songs recorded, and through this whirlwind week, they also find love with each other.
Before the show, my daughter and I started our Ladies Night Out with dinner at a pub near the NAC. While we were eating, we talked about seeing the play and how good we thought it was going to be. I remember watching the movie Once in theatres when it was released in 2007, and I fell in love with the story and the music of the film. I was really excited to see how it would translate from various locations in the film to a stage where scenery and the props would not change much.
We then went to the NAC to pick up our tickets and find our seats for the performance.
While looking through our playbill, we found that Ryan Link would be replacing Stuart Ward for this performance as Guy, and Zander Meisner would be replacing Ryan Link as Emcee. Once the stage cleared, the cast took their places on stage and performed a few musical numbers before the actual show began.
Though the story was the same, the theatrical version of Once was a very different experience. It was fun to watch the cast reshuffle props around the set to change the scene. We were also blown away at the talent that these individuals had as they were, at times, vigorously moving about the stage while playing instruments and singing! We were also taken in by the story that was unfolding before us. We were touched and moved by the performance, and we had a great time in our seats.
Ryan Link was great in the role of Guy. He was funny, playful, yet you could feel how conflicted Guy was with his old feelings for his ex-girlfriends and the new ones he felt for Girl. It got me trying to put myself in his shoes, thinking about what I would have done and said if I was in his position. Link also has a great voice, and he sang with such emotion, regardless of the tone of the song and the scene he was currently in.
I really loved Dani de Waal as Girl. For me, this character has a cheeky innocence about her, and De Waal nailed it perfectly. It was not hard to see why just about everyone would not want to help Girl with De Waal in this role. De Waal’s voice was gorgeous, and I was captivated by it whenever she sang.
Link and De Waal together were magic on the stage. They played off of each other so well for their comedic scenes. I was also able to see Guy and Girl coming closer together, wanting for them to end up together and quietly cheering for this to happen throughout the performance. I also loved when they performed “Falling Softly” together. My daughter had only heard the soundtrack to the movie before watching this performance, yet she also fell in love with the song again, and understood why this song won an Oscar for “Best Original Song.” We this made us want to come back for another performance to see how different the performance would have been had Stuart Ward played Guy.
Another favourite character of ours had to be Girl’s brother, Švec played by Matt DeAngelis. We loved how he was bold and brash, yet funny during his scenes in the performance. We knew that whenever we saw him in a scene that we were going to laugh and laugh hard. DeAngelis did not disappoint us!
We also got to experience something that, I found to be such a rare occurrence by a theatrical performance. Before the performance and during the Intermission, the audience was allowed to go up on the stage! I thought that it was the crew and those who had special passes that were mingling on the stage before the performance, but at the Intermission, I saw other theatre-goers head up to the stage, so, of course, I could not pass up on a chance like this! My daughter and I walked on the stage and looked around at the space the cast were performing on. It was not that big, and it impressed me more with the skill these actors/performers had to be so entertaining in such a small space. They were also selling drinks to audience members on the stage, so we could feel even more a part of the stage and the experience. This extra touch was amazing and unforgettable!
Overall, I loved Once. There was no high-impact action or adventure, but I was taken on a journey of lost love and love found, comedy and drama, and some amazing music. I was sad to see the performance end, yet my daughter and I clapped and cheered for the production we witnessed. If you are thinking of catching Once while it is on tour, make a night of it like my daughter and I did, and be ready for a night of that you soon will not forget!