Jon-Alex MacFarlane has portrayed the bank manager in this production more than Once.
Once begins a run at the Chemainus Theatre Festival Feb. 9 that continues through March 10 with MacFarlane, 51, bringing his familiarity with the role to the impressive cast. The Halifax native has primarily been in larger venues with an award-winning Toronto cast and under the direction of a New York production team for a U.S. national tour.
The Neptune Theatre in Halifax is about the closest venue in size to Chemainus where he’s made stage appearances in Once.
“The show itself is very intimate,” MacFarlane said. “In some respects, a smaller venue actually plays to its strengths.”
Once, a 2007 Irish musical romance film, may not be familiar as the standard productions everyone knows, he conceded.
“It doesn’t have that notoriety to it,” MacFarlane indicated.
But it does have one hugely familiar aspect to it and a great claim to fame in the song Falling Slowly that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the Oscars in February of 2008 and was also nominated for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, TV or other Visual media at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
“That song people will recognize,” said MacFarlane. “As to the story or how it’s portrayed, this story is very unique. It had this incorporation of actors and musicians as one. We are the actors, we are the brand, we are everything in the show.
“We don’t have one leader up there. Each person dependent on where we are in the show takes the lead.”
While the story is centred around Guy (Daniel Kosub) and Girl (Allison Lynch), “the rest of it we’re significant in we affect the story and our part of the story,” noted MacFarlane. “All of our characters are there to support the relationship between Guy and Girl.”
MacFarlane is enjoying his first visit to the West Coast, having arrived for the start of rehearsals on Jan. 15. “Funnily enough, I found out a cousin of mine lives in Nanaimo,” he indicated.
This will be the fourth time in a production of Once for MacFarlane.
“No two companies are the same,” he pointed out. “They are very individual. The sound and how it looks is very unique to each production.”
MacFarlane was actually sought-out by music director and good friend Kraig Waye for this role because of his expertise.
“As soon as he knew he was on the project, he requested me,” MacFarlane said.
“The role is somewhat specialized. It makes it hard to find someone with what’s required.”
Each central character plays two or three different instruments. “That’s what creates a mystique about the show,” said MacFarlane, who plays the cello and guitar.
Other cast members include: Stephanie Cadman (Reza); David Cohen (Andrej); Masae Day (Ex-Girlfriend); Alison Jenkins (Baruska); Alexander Nicoll (Svec); Waye (Eamon/MC); and Mark Weatherley (Da/Billy).
“The beauty of Once is that it’s not your typical musical – from the contemporary lineup of singer-songwriter tunes to the love story in which two unlikely characters find themselves, to the cast of unique characters,” points out CTF artistic director Mark DuMez.
“The story may stretch your expectations of musical theatre and capture your heart in its authentic look at trying to keep the fires of creativity and hope burning when forces conspire against them.”
“At its core, Once is a tremulous fable about hopeful, yet contradictory forces falling slowly over two divinely connected souls,” added director Peter Jorgensen.