The two lead characters meet on the streets of Dublin. The audience never learns their names. The script refers to them merely as “Guy” and “Girl.” They have defining traits— he’s a musician nursing heartbreak, she’s an immigrant from the Czech Republic— yet they could be any of us. They are wounded people, bonding through a love of music.
Once, an acclaimed musical based on the 2007 film starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, won an Academy Award for its central song, “Falling Slowly.” The Broadway show earned more accolades, including a Tony Award for Best Musical and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.
On April 19, a new production of Once will open at Adrian’s Croswell Theater. As with the original Broadway staging, the cast in Adrian will be both actors and orchestra— playing instruments on stage as the show progresses.
Sing your melody
“The characters are everyperson,” said Doug Miller, director of the Croswell production. “They’re musicians and they perform onstage. They memorize the score for the entire musical. They’re actually playing all those instruments on stage, and without any sheet music. It’s an endeavor that, when you think about it, is pretty amazing. But when you watch the musical, it seems so effortless.”
Miller first experienced Once during its initial Broadway run, and was impressed by the show’s story and presentation. Musicals that utilize the cast as the musical accompaniment aren’t unheard of —“Company” famously did it, as did a modern revival of Sweeney Todd— but the challenge of creating this unique experience had Miller jump at the chance to bring it to life.
“I’m thrilled to be asked to do it. I’ve been blessed to do a lot of different theater, and when this show came up, and the Croswell was thinking about doing it, I was thrilled that they asked me — to not only direct it, but also to design it.”
I’ll sing along
The show’s songs— all written by the original film’s lead actors, Hansard and Irglova— imbue Once with a beautiful, thoughtful tone and Irish flavor. Miller’s cast, lead by Johnathan Crayne as Guy and Ruth Jansen as Girl, work hard to embody these characters and the musical numbers that bring them to life.
“Anyone who’s ever done any musical before knows how they can tie their blocking in with their song, and their song in with their dance, and all that movement, it all ties together. I can learn my lines, but I can’t really learn them until I interact with that other person who’s acting with me.”
Once is a relatively new show, having debuted on Broadway in 2012. Many audience members at the Croswell may never have seen it before this April run. Miller said he hopes his production delivers the same remarkable experience he had when he first saw it in New York seven years ago.
“I’m hoping that we have people come in to see this show that are taken aback by the freshness of the music and the story.”
$20-$40, based on seating | $15, students and children
Friday, April 19-28 | 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays
2:30pm, Sunday, April 28.
The Croswell Opera House, 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian, MI.
517-264-7469 | croswell.org