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'Once' worth seeing twice at PlayhouseSquare

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Once the musical in Cleveland

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A beautiful story of longing and of the power of music fills the stage of the Palace Theatre at PlayhouseSquare in the musical “Once”, playing now through November 24, 2013.

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An Irish immigrant (simply referred to as Guy) and a Czech immigrant (simply referred to as Girl) meet just as he is about to put down his guitar for good. Over one week, the two are drawn together by the power of song and spirit. Along with their personal stories of unfinished love, they feel a mutual gravitation towards each other. They collaborate, commiserate, and find themselves trapped in a web of complicated emotions.

Based on the 2007 Academy Award-winning film, “Once” the musical is inspiring on many levels. It taps into what it is to be human, what it is to have unfulfilled dreams, how easy it is to give up on oneself, and what it means to give strength to others. It also delves into the creative psyche and the power of making something beautiful.

“Once” was the winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. With music & lyrics by academy award winners Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, songs like “Falling Slowly”, “Leave”, “Gold” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” leave the audience wrapped up in an experience of melodic soul searching.

Director John Tiffany knows exactly how to pull at the heart strings, and this production plucks at all of them.

The cast doubles as the orchestra, with every single adult member of the ensemble masterfully strumming, bowing, drumming and singing in harmonic power. The stage is full of instruments at all times, including guitars, a mandolin, violins, piano, cello, bass, percussion and more. It’s enough to make a musically inclined patron leave the theater after the show, immediately grab an instrument and run to the nearest recording studio for an inspired 24-hour recording session (as happens in the show.)

All members of the tightly-knit ensemble create very “real” characters in this show. This is important because the production celebrates friendship and the power of camaraderie. All cast members are well-trained, passionate musicians who seem to be truly enjoying their time on the stage with each other.

Stuart Ward plays Guy with an “it” factor that gives him the appearance and performance of a rock star with the humility of an everyday Joe. He’s just as enjoyable to watch as a solo performer with his guitar as he is harmonizing with the entire group. The emotion in his voice is raw, timeless and heartbreaking.

Dani de Waal is a delight to watch as Girl. Her positivity for Guy’s music is infectious. She has her own difficult life stories, but the optimism with which she approaches him in his creativity moves the entire show with ease and hope. Her beautiful voice and proficient piano skills provide an endearing harmony to Guy’s yearning melody. Together, their songs walk the audience through the ups and downs of being human.

The clever and graceful movement of Steven Hoggett also adds a layer of excitement and grace to the already mesmerizing ensemble. Dancing with a cello and some of the other instruments can’t be easy, but the cast makes it look effortless and fun.

To get tickets or more information for “Once”, visit www.playhousesquare.com, or call the Ticket Office at 216-241-6000. “Once” runs at the Palace Theatre November 12-24, 2013.

For more information, visit the official website: www.oncemusical.com.

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Do you have a Cleveland performing arts related story? Contact Kate Miller at KateMillerExaminer@yahoo.com.

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