‘Once’ at the Hobby Center

12 Mar

Once

By BECCA REYENGA

Opening night of Once at Houston’s Hobby Center was a tremendous success. An excellent balance of humor and depth, witty dialogue, and deeply moving music gives Once the power to make you laugh and cry – occasionally at the same time! The humor is refreshingly direct and the heart of the show is surprisingly deep, soulful perhaps.

As guests entered the auditorium on Tuesday evening ushers invited us to enjoy a drink at the bar on stage. It created a true pub atmosphere – even more so when the cast began to play jovial folk music in the center of the stage. It was charmingly unclear when the show actually started because the audience was part of creating the setting – a setting of community.

Community is a central theme to this musical. The message is that we find value in ourselves when others value us. Media for the show reads: “his music needed one thing… her”. Not only did the male protagonist, Guy, need the female protagonist, Girl, to help him see the value of his music, but throughout the show we see that members of the group find value in themselves through their affiliation with the group.

The synergy of the group is evident in the both the music and the humor they share together. Further, the mirror-covered walls on stage invite the audience to be a part of this synergy as well. The audience has a full perspective. It isn’t about one angle. It isn’t about one person. It’s about the entire group – including the audience.

Interestingly, the dichotomy is that while this is a community, the community is made of individuals. We see glimpses of each character’s individuality in the show – enough that we can relate to them and see how they contribute to the group. We of course learn most about the Guy and the Girl – and it is the connection between these two “stopped” individuals that lights up the musical. Like looking in a mirror, they recognize similar qualities in each other. And when they come together, they have full perspective. They belong and life makes more sense. One of my favorite things about this production is the reality of it. We are sad when the Guy and the Girl cannot live happily ever after, but, the reality is, we do not live once upon a time. We live once and we each have a song to sing.

The musical ends with a reprise of the Oscar winning song “Falling Slowly”. The lyrics inspire us to “take”, “raise”, and “sing”. We are compelled to take action – to find our song and sing it. Thankfully, while we only live once, “[w]e’ve still got time”. And while there is still time to see this show, I greatly recommend it.

Production photo by Joan Marcus

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