Gregory Maheu, the "guy" and the ensemble of Once at Olney Theatre Center/Photo: Stan Barouh You can hear the music from the pictures.
It's a wonderful night (or day) at the theatre. They sing! They dance! They act! They play!
You like music? You're gonna love Once at the Olney Theatre Center and its common language which speaks throughout the world.
Malinda Kathleen Reese is "Girl" and Gregory Maheu is "Guy" in Once at Olney Theatre Center/Photo: Stan Barouh
The music starts before you enter the theatre when the troupe's music rings out in the entrance hall to welcome you and tease with the promise of a good time ahead.
How can things go wrong with such a dandy beginning? What's a play, a novel, life, without a bit of contrast, some problems? It's all about ups and downs and taking advantage of every single day.
And isn't that what entertainment is all about?
John Sygar (Andrej), Carlos Castillo (Svec), Daven Ralston (Reza), Malinda Kathleen Reese (Girl), Somaya Litmon (Ivanka), and Emily Mikesell (Baruska) in Once at Olney Theatre Center/Photo: Stan Barouh
A "Guy" (Gregory Maheu) is down in the dumps in Dublin (or any city) suffering ill effects of unrequited love when suddenly (you never know what the day is going to bring), a "Girl" (Malina Kathleen Reese) appears. She tries to drag him out of his slump from the dump in Dublin, and there they go!
A woman rescues the man! (That they have no names means they are everybody.)
Mr. Maheu plays the guitar and Ms. Reese, the piano, and, like the rest of the cast, they sing and dance practically non-stop.
They've got talent!
Billy (Dave Stishan), one of my favorites who plays four instruments, is the virile shop owner, the "he-man" who takes guff from no one, including Guy who is a competitor for Girl, but she has no time for aggressors like Billy.
In a post-show exchange with members of the audience, Baruška (Emily Mikesell) said one of the hardest demands on the actors is to sing while making music (she plays violin, ukulele, and accordion, but not at the same time), but the cast succeeds in making it look so easy.
An actor's skill, no?
At the audience session, actors credited voice and dialect coach Lynn Watson for their convincing Irish speech.
First a movie, then a play, Once's "Falling Shortly" received the 2007 Oscar for Best Original Song, and five years later, the production won eight Tonys.
This band of strolling musicians play banjos, accordion, piano, guitars, mandolins, electric bass, violins, cello, papoose (?), bodhran (?), ukulele, tambourine, melodica (?), castanets (?), and cajón (the instrument from Peru which looks like a box, acts like a box and sounds like a box when hit by fingers, hands and sticks).
Except for the children, every actor plays at least one instrument in the show, and "Svec" (Carlos Castillo) plays six, and "Andrej" (John Sygar, the dance captain), five. (My notes say: "Buy the soundtrack" which is rarely found among my pages.)
As it should be, the set by Michael Schweikardt is simple and uncomplicated with colorful pieces of lumber hanging at angles for backdrop.
The musicians sit in the shadows in a semi-circle while actors talk. Scenes change quickly with movements of the piano, a chair or two, a cajón.
Costumer Frank Labovitz looks like he pulled every outfit straight from heaps of dirty clothes lying in millennials' bedrooms. It's the times!
Some of the memorable lines from the show: "This day has such promise. Every day has promise!" "Life is good." "Wasting life because you are frightened of it is terrible!" "Those who live in fear die miserably in their graves." (Yogi Berra's name is missing from the credits.)
Congrats to Olney's music director, Christopher Youstra (four instruments) who acts as emcee in the show.
Other members of the cast are Katie Chambers, Nick DePinto, Craig MacDonald, and Brian Reisman. Daven Ralston is Reza, a "hot mama."
At alternate performances, Kyleigh Fuller and Somaya Litmon share the daughter role. Swings are Linda Bard and Ian Geers.
It is astonishing that one person, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, directed and choreographed the show.
No wonder Once been extended. A great way to celebrate St. Paddy's Day!
Other members of the creative team are Colin K. Bills, lighting; Matt Rowe, sound; Karen Currie, production stage manager; and Josiane Jones, director of production.
Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova. Based on the movie by John Carney.
What: Once by Enda Walsh
Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832.
When: Extended through St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2019, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and a sign interpreted performance Thursday, February 28 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: Begin at $42 with discounts for groups, seniors, military, and students
Ages: Olney rates Once as "R," appropriate for those age 16 and above. Adult language.
"Afterwords": After the matinees on March 2 and March 9
Duration: About two hours with one 15 minute intermission
Refreshments: Available and may be taken to seats
Parking: Free and plentiful on-site
For more information: 301-924-3400 for the box office or 301-924-4485.