Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

National Tour
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Fanilow: One Man's Pursuit of Music and Passion and Ah, Wilderness!, Eddie's reviews of The Rover, Ghost Quartet and Heromonster, and Patrick's reviews of Into the Woods and The Hypocrites' Pirates of Penzance and The Creature.

The Cast
Photo by Joan Marcus
It did my Irish heart to see and hear this beautiful heartfelt musical, whose touring production is playing the Orpheum Theatre on a short run through Sunday November 1st. The Tony winning musical Once is a warm, poignant, and inspiring gem. This is a show that does not batter you into submission. It is beautiful in its effortlessness and open honesty. The musical is based on the 2006 low budget movie by John Carney. This production owes much of its success to the versatile performers, the brilliance of John Tiffany's direction, and Bob Crowley's design of an Irish pub.

Once retains the songs written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová for the movie, including the Oscar winning song "Falling Slowly." They are mostly sad, wistful, and melodic, with some surprising shit-kicking Irish music that energizes the musical-drama, all performed by a 12-member cast who play instrumental accompaniment live while acting, singing, and dancing on stage. There are humorous moments over the two hour plus presentation.

The plot is centered on a singer-songwriter in Dublin. His girlfriend has departed for New York for a new job and he is very depressed. Also, his songwriting is going nowhere and his day job is working at vacuum cleaner repair job. He meets a Czech woman who has a young daughter and is now estranged from her husband. She has a vacuum cleaner that needs repairing. She writes songs also. So they play music together in a shop run by a friend of hers and, of course, a romance takes place. The couple are just known as Guy and Girl as in the film.

Stuart Ward is very good as the surly, guarded Guy. He has a powerhouse voice, especially in the opening song "Leaving." Dani de Waal gives a perfect performance that redeems the charm of the character by stressing her sensitivity and vulnerability. When they duet on the emotional reprise of "Falling Slowly," it would take a very stony heart not to respond.

Standouts include Scott Waara as Guy's dad who starts the show with a lovely Irish ballad, Tina Stafford as Girl's mom, Alex Nee as a member of the Czech community, and Evan Harrington who has some of the best comic lines as the owner of a music shop.

If you arrive early, you'll see that audience members can go up on stage to what seems to be an improvised barroom set, for a drink and to listen to coarse Irish songs along with sad Irish ballads. This is the original set by Bob Crowley that consists of a Dublin bar festooned with mirrors so that you to catch fragments of a floor pattern or a face in a way that matches the storytelling.

Once runs through November 1, 2015, at SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit For more information on the touring production, visit Coming up next are Riverdance opening on November 4th at the Golden Gate Theatre and If/Then opening on November 10 and running through December 6th at the Orpheum Theatre.

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