Once Upon the Valentine

. November 5, 2019.
Jon Patrick Penick as Billy (l), with Mariah Lutz in the touring production of Once, which will stop at the Valentine for one show on November 10. Photo credit: Denise S. Trupe.
Jon Patrick Penick as Billy (l), with Mariah Lutz in the touring production of Once, which will stop at the Valentine for one show on November 10. Photo credit: Denise S. Trupe.

The national tour brings a Dayton actor back to Ohio

Once means a lot to Jon Patrick Penick— both the musical he is currently starring in, and the movie the show is based on. An actor and musician born in Dayton, Penick had been inspired to further pursue his musical dream and move to Chicago after a fateful afternoon seeing the original Oscar-winning film in 2007.
“I went on a whim to a matinee, alone, in an empty theater. And the movie really changed my life.”

Despite his fondness for the source material, Penick was somewhat dubious when a stage version of the film he loved so much made its Broadway debut in 2012. “I was a little hesitant about the show because the movie was kind of sacred to me. But then I saw it and loved it. When movies get turned into musicals, they’re sometimes not the best things. [The musical] is arguably better in some ways.”

Meeting Billy

One noteworthy addition to the stage version is a character named Billy, the owner of a music shop where the lead characters— known as Guy and Girl— play together for the first time.

It is through the role of Billy that Penick has gotten the chance to put his own mark on the story. Penick plays Billy in the current national tour of Once, which will play at the Valentine Theater on November 10.

“[Billy]’s very protective of Girl, they’re kind of besties. He’s a big, bearded weirdo. He’s kind of comic relief for the show, too. It’s a very slow, wonderful play. I almost call it a ‘play with music’— it’s a very unconventional show,” Penick said.
Part of what makes Once so unconventional is the way the music is incorporated in the stage performance. All the actors play their own instruments, accompanying numerous songs.

“When you’re thinking about scene work or delivering something, you’re also making sure that your guitar is still in tune,” Penick said. “There’s a lot of common aspects that are problems in most musicals, you’re also thinking about the instruments.”

Growing into it

Penick has played Billy in several productions over the past year and a half, with his approach to the role growing through time, different casts and different directors.

“My first production, I was terrified, because I kind of didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was very excited about it, but I was just kind of discovering what I needed to do to have a well-developed character. And it just kept evolving.”
The current tour features the same choreography and set design as the original Broadway production, and is directed by a member of the original Broadway cast, J. Michael Zygo. As Penick prepares to return to his home state on this tour, he said he hopes this story, which had such an impact on his own life, can impact others in a similar way.

“Music is everything to me. So if it [motivates] someone to pick up a guitar, or get back to writing songs, or to tell someone how they really feel emotionally— that crush, or that long-lost love— I hope it motivates [folks] to do something better in their lives.”

7pm | $49-89 | Sunday, November 10
Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St.
419-242-2787 | valentinetheatre.com