PEORIA, IL -- The Tony award-inning musical Once played twice at the Peoria Civic Center on March 25, a matinee and an evening performance.
I saw the matinee and found Once good, worth seeing, but not great. It somehow lacks the 'edge' that strong plays have.
Set in a Dublin pub, it offers the audience a unique treat. Before the show and during the intermission, audience members can go on the stage to get a drink at the bar, for me $6 wine. It also was good but not great.
The story is trite -- boy loses girl, meets another girl and vice versa. The relationship is doomed, however, generating some tearful ballads, one of which won an Oscar for best original song, "Falling Slowly," a lovely piece. The play was also a film.
The cast performs all the music on stage, as the play is about an amateur musician who needs to make a demo CD to find a career in music. Also trite but requires a dozen talented cast members who are fine musicians.
The music, aside from the ballads, is mostly Irish folk-rock, lively and fun.
The main drawback to the production I saw was the dialogue. American actors, not Equity actors though, spoke in an Irish brogue, and some talked too fast. So alas much of the dialogue was impossible to understand. Other characters, playing Czechs, spoke more slowly but with accents, making them more understandable.
The outstanding cast member was the leading female, Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, who spoke slowly, and sang and played the piano beautifully. She played a Czech immigrant in Dublin, but didn't speak with an accent. Bravo.
Whenever I see a theater production that is less than perfect, I think about what would make the play stronger. In this case, more understandable dialogue would have helped, especially from the leading male, Sam Cieri.
The set was fine, the music was fine, the actors/musicians were fine. The plot could have been edgier, and moved a bit faster.
But overall this musicial, which has received good reviews and awards, is worth seeing for brief entertainment.
-- Elaine Hopkins