Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

National Tour

Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal
Once is a lovely little musical that sneaks up on an audience and wins it over with heart and sincere sentiment. The 2012 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, now on tour in Washington at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater, invites the viewer to join the crowd on Bob Crowley's Dublin pub set before the show, to buy drinks and enjoy impromptu performances by cast members.

The cast's pre-show music shifts seamlessly into the first scene, when a singer-songwriter called Guy (Stuart Ward) performs a lacerating song of lost love in the pub as a farewell to performing. The timely arrival of Girl (Dani de Waal), a Czech immigrant who also loves music—her taste is more for classical piano—changes his plans and leads them both in unexpected directions.

Once began as a 2006 Irish movie in which the songwriters, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová played Guy and Girl; the song "Falling Slowly," which also appears in the musical, won the Oscar for Best Song. Book writer Enda Walsh widens the focus beyond the central couple to include the people in their circle, each of whom has a story: the burly music store owner (Evan Harrington), who lets Girl play a piano in his showroom after hours; Girl's boisterous Czech friends and family in Dublin, including her pragmatic, accordion-playing mother (Tina Stafford); Guy's father (Scott Waara), who runs a vacuum cleaner repair shop; even the bank manager (Benjamin Magnuson) whom Girl approaches for a loan so she and Guy can rent a recording studio.

Director John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett, credited with "movement," elevate the dramatic action above the commonplace by heightening it. The musical has no pit orchestra; almost all the cast members play their own instruments, accompanying themselves and each other, and performers not in a scene sit around the edges of the action and move furniture as needed. Everyone works together to create a reality in which the music propels each scene into the next and the performers perform precision choreography while playing their instruments. The moment when the cast sings in a cappella harmony is ethereal.

Kennedy Center
July 7th - August 16th
Book by Enda Walsh
Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová
Based on the motion picture written and directed by John Carney
Ivanka: Sarah McKinley Austin
Girl: Dani de Waal
Svec: Matt DeAngelis
Eamon: John Steven Gardner
Billy: Evan Harrington
Emcee: Ryan Link
Bank Manager: Benjamin Magnuson
Andrej: Alex Nee
Ex-Girlfriend: Erica Spyres
Baruska: Tina Stafford
Reza: Erica Swindell
Da; Scott Waara
Guy: Stuart Ward
Movement by Steven Hoggett
Directed by John Tiffany
Music supervisor and orchestrations: Martin Lowe
Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or
For more information on the tour, visit

Photo: Joan Marcus

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