“Once” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – May 26, 2019


Mainstage Theatre, The Phoenix Theatre Company
Phoenix, AZ

“Once” is a joyous celebration of life in a small Irish town where long-hidden dreams become realities as residents push each other to explore their inspirations.  Girl pushes Guy, a local repairman who works for his father fixing vacuum cleaners, to explore his passion for creating lovely melodies with touchingly romantic lyrics.  The provincial town doesn’t have room for creative pursuits but Girl encourages Guy to go to New York City to market his tunes.

Girl is trapped in a loveless marriage with an absent husband.  She is raising her daughter, Ivanka, while tolerating her domineering mother, Baruska.  Girl and Guy realize almost too late that they love each other so Girl, her daughter, and her mother travel with Guy to New York where their lives take off.

The simple story has clear plot progression enhanced by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s charming yet boisterously foot-stomping Irish-inspired tunes that make the pair’s journey an exciting adventure of overcoming artificial deterrents.  “Once” is an uplifting testament to life’s potentials.

The Phoenix Theatre Company’s expert production under Pasha Yamotahari’s defining staging, is enhanced by Nicole Olson’s spirited dances, and played before Aaron Jackson’s mood-evoking set that recreates the tiny town.  Cari Smith’s scruffy attire make “Once” all the more real.  And The Phoenix Theatre Company’s intimate playhouse is the perfect size to bring the audience into the musical.  The original Broadway production and the touring company that stopped at barny ASU Gammage were severely hampered by theaters that were too large for this lovely but small show.

Each member of the impeccable cast creates vividly distinctive characters with superb ensemble and solo singing.  Michelle Chin’s Girl is quietly amorous yet forcefully persuasive in encouraging Guy.  Kyle Sorrell sings Guy with spirited gusto while portraying the character with alluring hesitancy that evolves into vigorous determination as he gains courage to act on his desires.  Each cast member plays an instrument showing just how remarkably talented this cast is.  They also each create believable Irish accents that never waiver.  Mention should be made of Azra Anna Kearns who played young Ivanka adorably opening night.

“Once” is not a glitzy musical and some patrons left at the intermission due to the show’s telling introspection.  “Once” is a reflective show that looks at the importance of making connections with others to have a more fulfilling life.  It continues through June 16.  For tickets contact The Phoenix Theatre Company’s box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A