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Story by Andy Argyrakis
For starters, attendees at Chicago's Oriental Theatre can literally walk on stage before the show begins to share a drink with the actual cast as they strum through tried and true Irish tunes in a bar scene straight out of Dublin. While everyone's ushered off stage once the show begins with "Leave," it's impossible not to stay enthralled with the obvious attraction between a guy with a broken heart (played by vocal dynamo Stuart Ward) and a girl with the same condition (the equally astounding Dani De Waal) when they meet in that very pub moments later.
As the show's standout song "Falling Slowly" kicks into gear, it's evident these complete strangers who don't even reveal their names are incredibly intertwined, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart. In less than a week, the pair becomes inseparable, speaking of the beak-up pain over which the guy's songs were written and digging into the equally troubled back story of the girl's splintered marriage that forced her and a young daughter to move back home.
Even so, the tension never gets overtly sexual, but instead finds the gal serving as a tremendous source of encouragement for her new male pal to pursue his bounty of musical gifts. Together, they set out on a quest to record a demo CD with the hopes of scoring a record deal, and considering the guy's virtually a one man Mumford & Sons thanks to gut wrenching tracks like "Say It To Me Now" and "Sleeping," that's unquestionably attainable.
It's never revealed how far his career develops since the focus turns back to this undefined relationship, and while those who saw the movie or the Big Apple edition already know how it all shakes out, newcomers will have to wait for a reprise of the very same song that brought the pair together in the first place. Indeed, "Falling Slowly" ends the truly unexpected tear jerker in the most poignant manner possible, leaving the guy and girl to face their destinies enhanced by the knowledge they've learned from each other along the way.
"Once" continues at the Oriental Theatre through Sunday, October 27. For more information, visit www.broadwayinchicago.com or www.oncemusical.com.
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