“Once” (review) – thru 5/15
State Street, Schenectady
Every now and then, you hear about a play that won this award and that award, and then, when you see it, you don’t enjoy it as much as you expected to. You start to feel like odd man out, wondering if you’re missing something dramatic or just didn’t have enough coffee that morning.
So it goes with “Once”, a Tony award- winning musical making its national tour and landing at Proctors until May 15th. OK, make that eight Tony awards in this case.
To be fair, the music in this play is simply wonderful and delightfully original. But what we have is a five-star cast holding up a plotless script. I could have listened to a CD and received as much satisfaction. The plot is as altruistic and predictable as they come: Guy (Sam Cieri) leaves town because he breaks up with a girlfriend we never meet. He falls madly in like with girl (Mackenzie Lesser-Roy), just like every other male in the audience. Together they start singing songs until we learn that the songs he is singing to Girl were actually written for the ex-girlfriend.
If this sounds simplistic and cliché-ish, it’s because it is simplistic and cliché-ish, hence my problem. Nothing earth breaking exists in this storyline. In fact, you try to follow it, but end up with lots of unanswered questions. I almost wonder if someone heard a great set of new songs and said, "Hey, let's make this a play."
Where this musical shines is both in the originality of the music and the abilities of our cast. Lesser-Roy delivers a superb performance, and frankly, if she ever releases a CD, I’m buying a copy and insisting on an autograph. Her voice is simply stunning. Cieri also lands squarely on his feet, delivering wonderful coffee-shop vocals, except for occasional screeches of outburst that I wish didn’t occur. All additional characters were perfect complements, creating a folksy atmosphere of every instrument imaginable.
The music and our performers were simply fantastic. But I almost wish it was kept a folk concert, instead of being attached to an overly simplistic script. These songs and performers stand on their own. The plot does not.
--Richard DiMaggio, didyouweekend.com
Address: State St, Schenectady, NY, USA