'Once' brings new experience to Hershey Theatre
When the film version of "Once" was released in 2007, it was an unexpected hit. Gentle, melancholy and filled with evocative music about love and loss by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, it won an Oscar, spawned a best-selling album and inspired a stage musical.
Now eight years later, the Tony Award winning Broadway show has been on the road for two years and will stop in Hershey September 15 through September 20.
Telling the story of an Irish street singer, Guy, and a Czech immigrant that becomes his muse, Girl, the story is based around the music they create as they fall in love in spite of circumstance.
The stage adaptation first opened at the New York Theatre Workshop in December of 2011. The screenplay was adapted by Enda Walsh and the production directed by John Tiffany. In 2012, the production won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Book of a Musical.
"I was a big fan of the movie when it came out. I think it is a beautiful film," said Evan Harrington, currently playing the role of Billy. "Being someone that played music on the side I was interested from the get go, and when I saw the show on Broadway, I just knew I had to be a part of it."
The current touring production stars Stuart Ward as Guy and Dani de Wall as Girl.
Harrington, who has been with the tour since day one, describes Billy, the owner of a struggling music shop, as, "A passionate guy. Billy wears his heart on his sleeves. A lot of people try to filter what they say and he doesn't always have that filter. He's just a big gregarious Irishman."
Billy owns the shop where Guy and Girl first discover their mutual love of music.
"The major theme of the show is love of music bringing the characters together, and I think everyone in the play has that theme running through them. Bill and his shop are where they discover their love of music," said Harrington during a phone interview. "So his shop is the catapult of them making music together and forming this relationship, which is really cool."
Harrington has previous credits including "Peter and the Starcatcher" and "Phantom of the Opera" with appearances on Broadway but "Once" is like nothing he's done before. For starters, all of the actors play their own instruments on stage and there is no pit orchestra.
During the course of each show, Harrington plays guitar, percussion, mandolin and ukulele, but the cast members that serve as swings are really the impressive members.
"Most of the swings and understudies play up to eight instruments while learning a variety of roles so they can jump in at the last minute," he said.
"The show is definitely a well-oiled machine, and I think we make it look easier than it is. We learned all of the choreography and movement in the first six weeks of rehearsal and it was extensive but also playful," Harrington contiuned. "We spent a lot of time getting to know each other as a band and that's really been the focus that we are a band. It's very different from any musical I've ever been a part of," added Harrington.
During their time in Hershey, the cast will put on seven performances but also enjoy some downtime. For Harrington, who is familiar with Hershey, can't wait for everything to smell like chocolate.
"I'm from upstate New York, so I used to come down to Hershey a lot for competitions. Some of my friends were even performers in the park," Harrington also added that he performed in the theatre, "years ago with a touring production of 'The Music Man.'"
As for why theater goers should give this intimate show a try, Harrington said, "It's one of the most unique theater experiences I've ever been a part of or seen. It's an experience to see the actors play the music for you. You don't see that often. The story is amazing and these people are incredible talents. 'Once' isn't your typical Broadway faire. It will definitely surprise you."