Weston’s ‘Once:’ Superb ensemble in this celebration of music, love

Julie Benko, left, and Brad Standley as Girl and Guy. All photos courtesy Weston Playhouse.

By David Lampe-Wilson
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Weston Playhouse opens its 81st summer season with a joyous production of  Once, a musical based on the 2007 Oscar-winning film of the same name.

Once celebrates a passion for music and the rediscovery of love, and this production has brought together singer/actor/musicians to create one of the best ensembles you are likely to see and hear this — or any other — season.

In this musical, the cast also serves as its own orchestra and, instead of exiting a scene, cast members go to the side of the stage to sit, watch, sing and play for other performers. There’s a bar onstage and patrons are invited to order a drink (ginger beer, only) and enjoy the pre-show festivities as cast members sing and play as if in an Irish pub.

‘Once comes alive as an evening of free-spirited fun, bolstered by energetic dancing, splendid musicianship and plenty of emotional honesty.’

The place is the City of Dublin where a discouraged Irish busker is approached by a young Czech woman. He is by trade a vacuum cleaner repairman and she has a vacuum in need of his attention. Over the ensuing week they establish a deep friendship and help each other reignite their passion for living.

Simply known only as Guy and Girl, the couple is beautifully played by Brad Standley and Julie Benko. They have a natural indefinable chemistry, and the audience enjoys discovering their insecurities and characteristic quirks.

Once comes alive as an evening of free-spirited fun, bolstered by energetic dancing, splendid musicianship and plenty of emotional honesty. The Playhouse’s diminutive size contributes to the evening’s sense of intimacy

‘Their camaraderie and sense of freedom must be owed to Director/Choreographer Michael Berresse.’

Standley and Benko are ably supported by the rest of the ensemble: Adam Huel Potter, Bristol Pomeroy, Margaret Dudasik, Jacob Brandt, Ginna Doyle, Seth Eliser, Dorothy Stanley, Fred Rose, Douglas Goodhart, Sam Weber and Faye Giordano. Their camaraderie and sense of freedom must be owed to Director/Choreographer Michael Berresse, who has delivered one of the best evenings of theater around.

Music Director Adam Wachter has highlighted the best of the ensemble’s many talents while lighting by Seth Reiser and costumes by Leon Dobkowski serve the play well. However, the set design by Meredith Ries seems too solid for such an organic and amorphous production; while handsome, the solid set plays against fluid spirit of the rest of the production.

Special kudos are due Patricia Norcia, the show’s dialect coach.

Once continues through July 15 at The Weston Playhouse, 12 Park St., Weston.  Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, call 802-824-5288 or click here.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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