Broadway musical "Once" is a paradox in which nothing happens, but yet everything happens.
To describe the plot in terms of action is simple: A cheerful gal meets a mopey guy, helps him get a bank loan to rent a recording studio for a night and they make a cool demo tape. That's it.
But the reason this cleverly staged, highly theatrical show has struck a chord with theatergoers since its off-Broadway debut in 2011 is that the action isn't what this show is truly about. By convincing the Guy to follow his musical dream, the Girl shows him the value of life and the meaning of love.
A little "chick flick"-like? Oh, yeah.
The leading characters really aren't named, just Guy and Girl, perhaps to reinforce the idea that love is universal. These characters — he's an Irish street musician, she's a Czech immigrant — spend most of the show mulling the nature of love, even if they don't always know that's what they're doing.
If you haven't figured it out yet, "Once" is not your typical Broadway musical. Based on the 2006 independent film of the same name, the show took home the best-musical Tony Award, among others, in 2012. The touring production replicates the charm and intimacy of this mostly quiet, introspective look at love — though it walks a very fine line between heartfelt and melodramatic.
The dialogue is filled with platitudes such as "It's a complicated business, this love" and "What's more important than love?" Guy and Girl have more than their share of pregnant pauses and pained expressions in their fraught conversations.
Yet despite these soap-opera conventions, "Once" succeeds. Its simplicity never feels pretentious. Its artistic conceits fit the storytelling. The actors ooze likeability. And the music, folksy-pop a world away from brassy showtunes, hits you right in the heart. (The most well-known song is "Falling Slowly.")
Of course, I'm obligated to point out the terrible acoustics in the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre obscured a lot of lyrics on opening night. But the actors — who also serve as the orchestra, playing everything from ukulele to accordion — never failed to convey the meaning of what they were singing.
Stuart Ward is a charismatic Guy with a singing voice that runs the gamut from angry, growly rock to sweet Broadway tenor. Dani de Waal plays down the quirkiness of Girl, trading wackiness for an intense stillness. Her urgent rendition of "The Hill," late in the second act, is a show-stopper.
The supporting players ably create quick character sketches and add humor among the ballads.
A signature of the show is that the set, a Dublin pub, becomes a functional bar for the audience before the show and during intermission. Arrive early to watch the cast rock out — and raise a glass to the glory of love.
• What: Florida Theatrical Association presentation of the touring Broadway musical
• Length: 2:25, including intermission
• When: 8 p.m. today-Friday, Jan. 29-31; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2
• Where: Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, 401 W. Livingston St., Orlando
• Tickets: $38.50-$80.50
• Call: 407-246-4262
• Online: OrlandoBroadway.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun