PHOTO CALL: President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins Visits Broadway's Once

News   PHOTO CALL: President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins Visits Broadway's Once
The cast of Once, the Dublin-set love story that received 11 Tony nominations this week, had a very special guest in the audience May 2: Michael D. Higgins, the current President of Ireland.

Higgins and wife Sabina met with the company following the performance.

The stage version borrows the 2007 movie's songs by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who also played the would-be lovers in the film. The stage experience offers two additional numbers — "Abandoned in Bandon" and the Czech folk song "Ej Pada Pada Rosicka."

A company of 13 actor-musicians performs all roles and serves as the on-stage orchestra in the fable about a stuck troubadour fearful about moving forward. (A pre-show jam session is a reason to show up early at the Jacobs on West 45th Street; beer is served on stage — playgoers are welcome to commingle up there.) Opening night is March 18. 

The cast of Once features Steve Kazee (110 in the Shade, Spamalot) as Guy and Cristin Milioti (Off-Broadway's That Face, Stunning, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter) as Girl. The performers have New York credits, of course, but these are considered serious breakout performances. Also in the troupe are David Abeles, Will Connolly, Elizabeth A. Davis, David Patrick Kelly as Guy's Da, Anne L. Nathan as Girl's mother, Lucas Papaelias, Ripley Sobo, Andy Taylor, Mckayla Twiggs, Erikka Walsh, Paul Whitty and J. Michael Zygo. Read's recent The Leading Men column about Steve Kazee.

Once has a book by Irish playwright Enda Walsh (Penelope), direction by John Tiffany (Black Watch), movement by Steven Hoggett (American Idiot, Black Watch) and set and costume design by Tony Award winner Bob Crowley (The Coast of Utopia, Mary Poppins).

The score is orchestrated and arranged by music supervisor Martin Lowe. Expect Guy on guitar, Girl on piano (as in the film) and the supporting cast on mandolin, melodica, cajon, banjo, ukulele, harmonica, accordion, bass, drums and other instruments.

Lighting design is by Tony winner Natasha Katz (Aida, The Coast of Utopia) and sound design is by Clive Goodwin. Production stage manager is Bess Marie Glorioso. Stephen Gabis is the dialect coach.

The actor-musicians who play characters, sing together and accompany each other on a range of instruments create a rare organic, communal and potently theatrical experience — all within Crowley's Irish pub setting that transforms into multiple locations, including the twinkling lights of Dublin itself.

There are "public performance" numbers, but this is a new era of show tune where music also punctuates, illustrates and gives abstract-expressive life to the characters' moods and hopes. The lyrics may not be on the nose, but they illustrate restless hearts. Guy refers to his heart as "traveling."

Once played developmental productions at American Repertory Theater in Boston and at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop in 2011.

The 2007 Academy Award-winning film "Once" was written and directed by John Carney. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Once began performances at NYTW on Nov. 15, 2011, and opened Dec. 6. Prior to that, it played a developmental engagement at the American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, MA, in April 2011.

Once is produced by Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G. Wilson, Orin Wolf, The Shubert Organization, and Executive Producer Robert Cole.

Here's how the producers characterize the musical: "[Once] tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. Brought to the stage by an award-winning team of visionary artists and featuring an ensemble cast of gifted actor/musicians, Once is a musical celebration of life and love: thrilling in its originality, daring in its honesty... and unforgettable in every way."

Tickets for the Broadway production are on sale via or by phone at (212) 239-6200.

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