Nile Hawver in Wilbury Theatre Group's production of 'Once' Source: Courtesy of Niki Healy

Review: Wilbury Theatre Group Caps the Season with Tender, Powerful 'Once'

Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Wilbury Theatre Group finishes their season with the deeply moving and beautiful production of the Tony Award-winning musical "Once."
Based on the 2007 film by John Carney with a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the show chronicles a romance and musical partnership between Guy (Nile Scott Hawver) and Girl (Alison Russo) over the course of a few days in Dublin, Ireland.

Guy is despondent after his girlfriend leaves for New York City. He is a guitarist and works with his father (Vince Petronio) in a shop where they repair vacuum cleaners.

Girl has a chance encounter on the street with Guy. She has a vacuum cleaner which needs fixing. Instead of paying him with money, she takes to the piano in a music shop and convinces Guy to perform with her.

Nile Hawver and Alison Russo in Wilbury Theatre Group's production of 'Once'
Source: Courtesy of Niki Healy

Girl has a young daughter, Ivanka (Leola Hogan, Colette Hogue) and a husband who walked out on her. She is a headstrong woman, but also very perceptive. She realizes Guy is not only a great guitar player, but a skilled songwriter as well. Eventually, Guy and Girl, along with her flatmates, are recording songs for an album. In the process, Guy finds himself falling in love with his musical inspiration. But will she reciprocate his affections?

The performances by Hawver and Russo are powerful and charming. He's earnest and self-doubting, while she's defiant and determined. They are also highly talented singers and musicians. Hawver and Russo's duet on the ballad "Falling Slowly" is tender and poignant. It reaches greater emotional depths than most typical love songs. Their relationship is not the standard musical romance. These are deeply troubled individuals working to put the shattered pieces of their lives back together. Their music expresses their longing, their fears, and their hopes.

Quinn's ("Twelfth Night") role as acerbic music shop owner Billy is a comedic gem, along with Teddy Lytle ("Wolf Play") as the blond haired Svec, a zonked-out musician given to uttering bizarre non sequiturs. Lytle steals every scene he's in with his unrestrained physicality and larger than life presence.

The ensemble for Wilbury Theatre Group's production of 'Once'
Source: Courtesy of Niki Healy

Dave Rabinow ("You Got Older") is hilarious as the bank manager with musical aspirations. His impromptu musical performance while meeting with Guy and Girl is a comic highlight.

Claudia Traub ("Indecent") is wonderfully eccentric and wise as Girl's loving mother and gives some unsolicited guidance to Guy. Petronio ("Julius Caesar") provides a supportive and comforting presence as he encourages his son to pursue his dreams and leave the past behind.

Director Josh Short ("Spring Awakening") deserves praise for his imaginative staging. Monica Shinn's impressive set design recreates the look and feel of a Dublin nightclub. Matt Oxley's costumes and Alexander Sprague's evocative lighting are also transformative.

"Once" is an exhilarating experience, filled with heart and soul, and guaranteed to bring a tear to your eyes as the magic of this story sweeps you up in its power. This is a show that should not be missed.

"Once" runs through June 23. Wilbury Theatre Group. 475 Valley St., Providence, RI. For tickets, visit

by Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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