“Once” Sparks Musical Magic, at 42nd St. Moon, S.F.
Hansard & Irglová Transcend Familiar Love
by Cynthia K. Lopez
“Once,” the award-winning musical, reminds us of the unique ability of music to attract and inspire love. In “Once,” an Irish vacuum cleaner repairman and a Czech immigrant connect over their love for songs, and creativity bursts forth.
Dublin native and talented street musician Guy (emotional Corbin Mayer) has hit bottom, ready to give up his dreams of a musical career. Guy works in his dad’s Dublin repair shop, but he dreams of making songs. His girlfriend left for New York, leaving him lonely and forlorn.
Girl (irrepressible Olivia Clari Nice), a brilliant pianist and surprisingly optimistic Czech immigrant, is drawn to Guy’s haunting folk melodies and powerful, evocative lyrics. She lives in poverty, with her mother and school-aged daughter, among other Czechs in Dublin.
When Girl brings in her Hoover, she and Guy connect over their mutual passion for music. Girl introduces Guy to the Czechs who gather in a music shop to play unsold instruments. In an amazing five days, they create a demo tape, and begin to fall for each other, of course.
In 2006, “Once,” a low-budget indie film, won attention and awards at the Sundance Festival. The sweet, fairy-tale love story exposes harsh realities of the immigrant experience. Girl says, “We all have accents, we’re people of the world.” When they perform together, they become a singular voice, accents and birthplaces be damned.
In their Oscar-winning song, “Falling Slowly,” we learn about their budding international romance. He sings, “I don’t know you, but I want you, all the more for that.” Their moving melody, sung as a duet, makes fond memories. “Falling Slowly,” a unique Irish-Czech folk tune, has a melody that soars and dips multiple octaves. As we ride the song’s emotions, it enchants and intrigues.
Cindy Goldfield directs, choreographs, and even costumes the production. The versatile actors play multiple instruments onstage—including violin, cello, mandolin, and box drum. By simply moving around tables, a piano and a few chairs in the one-scene set, we’re transported to a homey Dublin pub, then the music store, and finally, a recording studio.
“Once” reminds us that a chance meeting can be life changing, even if the relationship doesn’t last. The change depends on our desire and ability to go beyond ourselves. When we seek a better life, we gather the will to overcome rejection and fear, bravely.
“Once” –book by Enda Walsh, music & lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová, directed by Cindy Goldfield, by 42nd St. Moon, at Gateway Theater, San Francisco, through Sunday, June 30, 2019. Info: 42ndstmoon.org
Cast: Emma Berman, Myra Chachkin, Corbin Mayer, Matt Davis, Ben Euphrat, Devin Renee Kelly, Brady Morales-Woolery, Ariela Morgenstern, Bryan Munar, Olivia Clari Nice, Cristina Owens, Rob Ready, Colin Thomson, Brady Morales-Woolery, and Lucy Swinson.