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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Once at the Citadel Theatre - Music to fix a broken heart...

It was lovely to return to the Citadel Theatre last night to take in Once, their season opener. I brought Gibson along to celebrate his 14th birthday as I knew the show would appeal to his musician's heart, and I was not wrong. To confirm this, after the bows, he turned to me and said, "Well... that was quite good." For me, it was the third time seeing the show, so I was curious about how the Citadel would approach it.

There were some significant differences, primarily in design choices. The other two productions I saw (Mirvish - Toronto, and Broadway Across Canada - Edmonton) made the base location an Irish Pub. Here, designer Cory Sincennes has given us a kitchen party amidst the rolling green hills of Dublin. I think the production owns the space, and director Ann Hodges along with choreographer Julie Tomaino, have made lovely choices to move from scene to scene and location to location. There are a few moments when the background action distracted me from the main action, but only a few. For the most part they've done a wonderful job of creating the world in both action and sound. 

Once, as a show, is a mix of concert and traditional musical. The songs are primarily those of Guy (Lawrence Libor) an Irish musician, who's broken heart has him contemplating giving up his music. A chance meeting with Girl (Emily Dallas), a Czech woman who is remarkably persuasive, leads him to revisit his music. It is this music that creates the score for the show. Libor and Dallas provide an authentic emotional heart for the show. Both are compelling and charismatic, with excellent musical skills both vocally and with their instruments. This is a show that only works if you believe and care about Guy and Girl, and we definitely believe and care about Libor and Dallas.

The whole cast is quite good. They are not only actors, singers and dancers, but they are all also musicians who create an atmospheric palette of sound. Having so many musicians onstage, as part of the action, layering in the instruments and voices leads to some terrific sound. That being said, one of my favourite musical moments of the show was an A Capella version of Gold.  I was particularly impressed with Larissa Pohoreski as Reza, Stephen Guy-McGrath as Billy and Oscar Derkx as Andrej. This production also makes an interesting choice of casting Karen Lizotte as the Bank Manager. Written originally for a man, having the role played by a woman shifts some of the dynamics which, aside from one joke that doesn't quite make sense, allows for some lovely subtext between Lizotte and Guy-McGrath that wasn't evident in the other productions I saw. 

Overall, it's a great evening of music with a simple story of music and love. You'll feel like you are at a kitchen party with amazingly gifted musicians. 

Once runs to October 14 at the Citadel Theatre. Click here for tickets. 

Photo Credit: Ian Jackson, EPIC Photography

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