Not enough superlatives to describe ‘Once’

Unashamed in its simplicity, “Once” awes with its laid-back ease while at the same time inspires.
Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy star in 'Once' at Proctors.
Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy star in 'Once' at Proctors.

SCHENECTADY — On my way out of the theater the other night, I was cornered by a patron who, upon recognizing me, barked she loved reading my reviews and has for years, but chided me, “You never seem to like anything! Have you ever written a rave?”


WHERE: Proctors, Schenectady

WHEN: Through Sunday

HOW MUCH: $20 – $80

MORE INFO: 518-346-6204,

“ ‘Once.’ ” I curtly (and devilishly) replied, and repeated, “yes, ‘Once.’ ”

There are not enough superlatives to describe “Once,” the 2012 Tony Award-winning Best Musical at Proctors through Sunday. But one could start with unmissable. This is the best musical I have seen in years.

Unashamed in its simplicity, “Once” awes with its laid-back ease while at the same time inspires. Eschewing spectacle and the convention of most current Broadway fare — there are no crashing chandeliers, knife wielding psycho yuppies or scary children screaming of revolt anywhere in this show. “Once” is a complete breath of fresh air. A guy, a girl, a bar and a band craft this story. The result is simple, profoundly human and just about perfect.

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, the story of a sad Irish thirtysomething busker working in his dad’s repair shop and his chance meeting with a young Czech girl who needs her Hoover serviced is so low key and everyday it sounds, on the surface, sleep inducing.

You may rightly ask, just where and how does this story sing? Everywhere! The story of people trying to connect, to learn from, inspire — that’s the cosmic dance, right? — is by nature, alive and breathes. And “Once” is just that. What about the silences that live between words? “Once” is unafraid to explore that delicate area.

This nebulous, scary world can often depress and land as cold as a Bergman film, but in the masterful hand of Irish playwright Enda Walsh, wicked humor rises and compliments the evening’s wistful dusk of melancholy. The result is joy unexpected, and honest joy, not manufactured. It’s rather miraculous.

Marvelous cast

Sam Cieri, as the “guy” and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy as the “girl” are marvelous, as is the rest of the cast who portray the band and townspeople. Cieri’s vocals are exceptional — wounded, raw and emotional — most wonderfully realized in “Say It to Me Now.” Lesser-Roy’s pensive, loss-filled second act ballad “The Hill” still haunts as does the entire cast in an a cappella reprise of “Gold.”

The music, written by the stars of the original film, Glen Hansgard and Marketa Irglova, is glorious and beautifully compliments the simple tale.

Technically the show excels. Bob Crowley’s marvelous Broadway set, a comfortable Dublin bar with its many mirrors, has been retained for this tour as has Natasha Katz’s award-winning and visceral lighting.

So there are no singing missionaries extolling the Book of Mormon or salsa bands urging you to get on your feet, but you will fall slowly for “Once,” and when you fall, you’ll fall hard. Rare for me, but I think I am going again. Maybe they need to change the title …

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