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National Tour
Review by Cindy Pierre

Also see Cindy's reviews of Charlie Cox Runs With Scissors and The Music Man

Jack Gerhard and Mariah Lotz
Photo credit: Melissa Vogt and Evan Adamson
Once upon a time, there was an Irish busker named Guy (Jack Gerhard), who wrote and sang many love songs for a former flame. Along came a Czech pianist named Girl (Mariah Lotz), whose creativity and emotions unfurl when she discovers a fantastic singer/songwriter about to give up before fame. Enthralled by his music, she quickly approaches, and asks him to give love a second chance. At first hesitating, they soon start co-creating, and wrestle with a budding romance.

Like a poem writing itself onstage with scribbled lines, erased sentiments, and punctuations of shimmering beauty, the touring production of Once is a work of art that any patron of a performance would be privileged to see come to fruition. After winning six Tony awards and a Grammy, the reputation of this musical precedes it. However, with a highly skilled non-Equity cast and a crew who work cohesively and eclectically to generate an endearing and joyful time, this production of Once ranks high among the rest.

Based on the John Carney-directed 2007 film, Once begins without a defined beginning, because as you walk into the theater, a pre-show of Czech and Irish traditional songs is already in progress. There are mandolins, banjos and accordions galore, and one can't deny the feeling that something special is happening. The exciting, folksy performance is matched by Bob Crowley's captivating bar set. Boasting dark wood and darkened mirrors in the shape of a crescent moon, the visuals are dreamy and warm like a heartfelt hug below a sturdy, brick building. Like the characters who appear to be rock-solid on the surface, there are unfulfilled hopes underneath.

Transitioning from pre-show to show, Once begins without an introduction with the score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, as Guy sings "Leave," a song that expresses Guy's anger over the departure of his Ex-Girlfriend (Elleon Dobias). Gerhard's vocals are strong, but in this number, they lack the grit and anguish of Hansard, who played the role in the film. When Girl sees Guy leave his guitar behind, she acts quickly to dissuade him. As Girl, Lotz is forward, but compelling. As an awkward but poignant conversation develops between the leads, the ensemble dub as stagehands and orchestra, deftly moving set pieces and settling in the background when needed.

To continue the association, Girl asks Guy to fix her vacuum cleaner when she learns that he fixes Hoovers to pay the bills. She brokers a deal to pay him with a performance of her own music. A trained classical pianist, she plays just as well as she sings. Lotz is a siren, haunting us with her voice and making us yearn for things and places we've never known. The two form a friendship that teeters on more, and we root for their union, even if that possibility is fraught with challenges. She has an estranged husband and a young daughter. But while we journey with them, we can dream.

Once is a very well executed exploration of the intricacies of love and art. In two hours with a 15-minute intermission, you will have the chance to revisit or get acquainted with beloved fan favorites from the movie and from Hansard and Irglova's album, "The Swell Season." Although the duo's hit "Falling Slowly" is performed too early in act one without sufficient build-up, Enda Walsh's book is full of tender and memorable moments. "He has the same heart as you", Girl's friend Reza (Emily Gregonis) remarks when she questions Girl's feelings for Guy. Yes, yes he does, and we long to see them together.

This touring production is lively and spirited, chock full of great original movement by Steven Hoggett and wonderful musical interludes that keep our interest. With a skillful ensemble that plays their own instruments, they make the show seem homey and familiar, even if you've never been to Dublin or Czechoslovakia. Noteworthy numbers are the rousing "When Your Mind's Made Up", the reprise of "Gold" (a cappella with what sounds like the chanting of friars), and the reprise of "The Moon." Girl and Guy may have only known each other for a few days, but we've been missing them for a lifetime.

Once runs through December 22, 2019, at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, 3800 NW 11th Place, Lauderhill FL. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are for $35-55. For tickets and information, visit or call 954-777-2055. For more information on the tour, visit

Bank Manager: Todd Aulwurm (cello, guitar)
Andrej: Carlos Castillo (electric bass, ukulele, guitar)
Svec: Trevor Lindley Craft (guitar, mandolin, banjo,drum set)
Da: Richard Daniel (mandolin)
Ex Girlfriend: Elleon Dobias (violin, percussion)
Guy: Jack Gerhard (guitar)
Reza: Emily Gregonis (violin)
Emcee: Caleb Hartsfield (guitar)
Girl: Mariah Lotz (piano)
Billy: Jon Patrick Penick (guitar, percussion)
Eamon: Matthew Staley (piano, guitar, cajon)
Baruska: Tracy Thomas (accordion, concertina)
Ivanka: Gianna Winton

Scenic and Costume Design: Bob Crowley
Associate Scenic Design: Even Adamson
Lighting Design: Russell A. Thompson
Sound and Video Design: David Temby
Tour Direction, Musical Direction and Original Movement Recreated By: J. Michael Zygo