Review: PTC’s ‘Once’ offers evocative music, taste of Ireland

Pioneer Theatre Company's "Once" stars Roderick Lawrence (left) and Hillary Porter. Photo: Pioneer Theatre Company

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Some Utahns will remember “Once” as the modest musical film that hailed from Ireland but first found fame at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Well, “Once” has returned to Utah, this time in its stage musical version, which earned the Broadway production eight 2012 Tonys, including the one for Best Musical.

Pioneer Theatre Company is staging the show, directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh. It tells the tale of loves lost, passionate music and dreams pursued. It contains adult language and themes.

It’s a gentle, evocative story set against the background of an Irish pub full of lively characters, but starring Guy (actor Roderick Lawrence), a street performer and vacuum repair man, who meets Girl (Hillary Porter), a Czech immigrant selling flowers.

Girl plays one of Guy’s songs, and he repays her buy repairing her non-sucking Hoover. The longing looks start to fly, but neither has moved on yet from a previous heartbreak.

Lawrence and Porter and believable in their roles, but they never really deliver the soaring vocals that would reveal the depth of their feelings, and they don’t seem to have a strong chemistry together. It’s in the script that Girl declines a physical relationship, but it would be nice to believe the attraction is strong.

Most other actors in the show play multiple roles, or serve as musicians in the on-stage band. Their skill level is impressive, whether they are playing strong individuals or members of a close-knit community.

The set has a musical look to it, with features to suggest both a guitar, his instrument, and a piano, hers. The settings include a bar and a music shop, and the set design gives an intimate feel while reminding the audience that music is the language of emotion.

The set moves fluidly from one form to the next, and complements the choreography, which is natural and moves the story forward without undue distraction.

Also strong is the costume design by Gregory Gale, which lends both authenticity to the players and clues about their characters. Lighting design by Kirk Bookman sets the mood and the focus.

“Once” is a warm and welcoming tale, just a little short on passion but overflowing with music, community and hope. The show runs Mondays-Saturdays, open through March 2.

For a link to tickets or additional play or theater information, click here.


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