British Actors Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie Are Lovelorn Troubadours of Broadway's Once

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25 Jun 2013

Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie
Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie
Photo by Joan Marcus

This past spring Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie began an adventure. A whirlwind audition and a subsequent rehearsal period of less than a week would find the London-based actors starring in the soulful leading roles of Guy and Girl, respectively, in the Broadway production of the Tony Award-winning musical Once – which is now in its second year at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

Darvill, best known for his role as Rory Williams on the BBC series "Doctor Who," has also appeared on stage in Our Boys, Dr. Faustus, Swimming with Sharks, Marine Parade, Stacy and Terre Haute.

Christie co-starred with Daniel Radcliffe in the West End revival of Equus. She has appeared in "Mr. Selfridge" as well as The Ramshackle Heart and One Night In November.

Playbill spoke with the two thirty-something actors about their lifelong love of music, the experience of making their Broadway debuts, and landing the roles of a lifetime.

I'm curious to know if you originally auditioned for the London production of Once or whether it was specifically for the Broadway production.

Arthur Darville: Just New York. We have no idea how it happened!
Joanna Christie: We're just as clueless as everyone else!

AD: I still can't quite get my head around it at times. I got a phone call from my drama teacher [in the U.K.], who said, "How are you doing? I'd love to catch up. Come up and see the kids," and I said, "I'm in New York!" And he said, "Oh my God!" And I said, "Yeah, Oh my God!" So then he sent me a text message that read: "I've just looked it up – You're the lead!" and I said, "I know!"

I think American theatre fans were both surprised and delighted to see that two actors from the U.K were coming over.

JC: Honestly, we don't know why because Declan [Bennett], who's in the London show, is based here. So it's a bit mental.
AD: We were so clueless about the casting process and for us, it was a matter of a week and a half from the first audition to actually getting the job.
JC: And that includes flying out here for about four days.

That's a crash-course in Once. You're not just learning sides, you have to play instruments as well.

JC: It was horrendous! [Laughs.] I got a call on Monday saying, "Can you come in in 24 hours and play and learn the Mendelssohn piece, learn the song 'The Hill,' that my character also plays, then learn three scenes in a Czech accent." I remember being really annoyed because I thought, "There's no way I'm going to be able to do a good audition. This is a waste of time, and I'm not going to get it." Then I spent nine hours on a piano to learn that Mendelssohn because I thought, "If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this really well." It was pretty nerve-wracking. I've never played piano in any professional capacity, so that was pretty daunting.
AD: I had bit longer to prepare, actually. I had about three or four days. I got really into the music – I had about three or four songs to learn. And the scenes to look at. But that makes for the best auditions, because there was a part of my brain that was like, "There's no way I'm going to get this." So, it made me really chill out about it.
JC: It was almost a joke! Broadway - as if!
AD: I kept thinking, "They're going to get an Irish actor to do this, surely. There's got to be lots of Irish singer-songwriter people... They're not going to go for me at all."
JC: Or they'll get a Broadway star.
AD: I also looked up Steve Kazee on the internet and thought, "God, he's got such an amazing voice." It's so far away from what I do and am as both an actor and a musician that I thought, "I'm so not right for this." But I love the music and spent most of my time learning the songs and annoying my upstairs neighbor by screaming. I couldn't really sing the songs at first because they were too high and I'd just stopped smoking. I had to really warm up to be able to hit the notes. And I initially thought, "There's no way I'll be able to do this eight times a week."


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