John Szablewski Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘Once’ at MusicalFare Theatre

Steve Copps and Renee Landrigan in ‘Once’ at MusicalFare Theatre.

I remember seeing “Once” a few years ago when the National Tour came to Shea’s. I didn’t know what to expect walking in, but I remember leaving and thinking, “wow, that was a great show!” Now as a reviewer, I see roughly forty shows a year, and most of them do not leave a lasting impression. That is not to say that they aren’t good, but when you see as many shows as I do, you easily forget. “Once” is a show that I never did easily forget. I think about it from time to time, and when I saw that MusicalFare was producing it during the 2017/2018 season, I smiled because I knew it would be good. Sadly, ‘good’ is not a word to describe this production. ‘Phenomenal’ is a better choice.

. . .‘good’ is not a word to describe this production. ‘Phenomenal’ is a better choice.

“Once,” the 2012 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, is about a struggling musician who is full of self doubt, but after he crosses paths with a girl who is nothing but supportive, the two fill the voids in each other’s lives, by giving the other the push they need to be successful. Full of wonderful music and lyrics, “Once” is enjoyable from the opening notes, to the final bows.

MusicalFare sets the bar high with this one. The cast, of multitalented individuals, not only sing and act in the show, but they provide their own accompaniment as they are the musicians in this piece. Before the show begins, the audience is invited onto the stage, deliciously designed by Chris Cavanagh, where a full service bar is open, selling refreshments. The cast enters the stage, and mingles with the audience members, before playing their instruments and encouraging the audience to ‘get back to their seats.’ It is a fantastic display of breaking the forth wall, and giving the audience the true experience that every piece of theatre should.

The cast is truly inspiring in this piece. As an actor and musician, I hope to reach the caliber of showmanship that this collective group reaches in this show. My mouth dropped in awe, and I had to pick it up off the ground numerous times. I was just blown away.

Leading the cast in the roles of Guy and Girl are Steve Copps and Renee Landrigan, respectfully. These two both give fantastic performances and complement each other so well. While this show is not your typical love story, the chemistry that they both bring to the table is wonderful, and keeps you engaged the entire time.

The entire ensemble creates wonderful entertainment, with standout performances by Jacob Albarella, Amy Jakiel, Bob Mazierski, and Nick Stevens.

The cast plays the score beautifully, under the musical direction of Theresa Quinn. The energy that comes from the music jumpstarts your pulse, and if you didn’t have a pulse walking into the theater (you probably should have gone to the hospital) you had one when you left.

One thing that really amazes me, and this is something that I notice often, are the scene transitions. Sometimes transitions are clunky, or poorly timed, but this production of “Once” has seamless transitions that actually took my breath away. I would rate this to Broadway scene transitions. The attention to detail is admirable and is something that every theatre company in Buffalo should aim for in their productions.

One production that MusicalFare has done that always stays in my mind as one of their best is “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and to this day I still talk about it, but I think that show will be replaced with “Once.” There is simply nothing like it. Go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours and 15-minutes including an intermission.

Advisory: Language and suggestive content.

“Once” runs until May 27, 2018 and is presented at MusicalFare Theatre. For more information, click here.