Girl (Allison Lynch) throws her hands up in disgust at one of Guy’s (Daniel Kosub) suggestions. The production at the Chemainus Theatre is on until March 10. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Once cast brilliantly combines acting, musical talents

Chemainus Theatre Festival 2018 season opener tugs at the heart and instrument strings

Guy meets Girl. Guy and Girl develop an affection for one another. After that, well, it becomes complicated.

Once, on until March 10 at the Chemainus Theatre, opens the 2018 season with a musical of a different sort that also provides the audience with plenty of food for thought about relationships and aspirations.

Set in Dublin, Guy (Daniel Kosub) is an unlucky in love Irishman bemoaning the loss of his girlfriend who moved to New York City. Turns out Guy had written a bunch of songs for her that piques the interest in the songs and him by Girl, who recovers his guitar and its case after he inadvertently left it behind after performing in a local bar.

When Girl finds out Guy works in a vacuum repair shop, she informs him she has a Hoover that “doesn’t suck.” What also doesn’t suck is his music and Girl’s drawn to him, offering to play the piano for him to pay for the repair.

They immediately make beautiful music together and Guy’s queries to Girl are typically greeted with the same response. “I’m always serious,” she says. “I’m Czech.”

Along the way, we also meet an incredible array of other characters and musicians. It’s a mix of Irish and Czech cultures that proves very interesting.

Mark Weatherley is particularly humourous as Da/Billy. When his libido starts working overtime and there’s no shower available, the calming solution he offers is to “listen to Michael Buble.”

Jon-Alex MacFarlane has played the bank manager many times in productions of Once and lends a hilarious singing voice to a scene where he approves a loan to allow Guy to take his music to New York.

Guy becomes known on the local music scene as “Hooverman” thanks to Girl’s influence.

The combined musical and acting talents of the entire cast is incredible. The variety of instruments used from guitars, violins and ukuleles to the drums, bass guitar, cello and more produces some wonderful arrangements.

You almost expect an entire River Dance performance to break out during the lively sequences.

The instrumentation and sound was crystal clear and precise. However, on opening night at least, it overpowered some of the singing voices and made it hard to hear all the lyrics, but hopefully that’s all been corrected already with some minor tweaking.

Falling Slowly, of course, is the star of the show as the Academy Award winning song from 2008. But the whole cast really shines during a rendition of The Moon, ironically without instruments and just the raw energy of their combined voices.

The relationship between Guy and Girl progresses to the point where they are both faced with a dilemma. Guy receives an enthusiastic response from his former girlfriend about going to New York and Girl is in the midst of patching things up with her husband, as much for the sake of her young daughter as anything else.

The music clearly binds Once together in a celebration of life, no matter what adversity is faced.

The floor-level set design is simple, yet effective, and allows each of the performers to step out into the limelight or slip into the background as supporting musicians.

Director Peter Jorgensen provides his expertise to a sixth production at the Chemainus Theatre and Kraig Waye’s role as music director is pivotal in accentuating the crucial elements of the story.

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