Feb 23, 2014
06:33 AMArts & Entertainment
Tony Award-Winning Love Story 'Once' Opening at Shubert in New Haven
NEW HAVEN--More often than not, actors in national tours of successful Broadway musicals are hamstrung by expectations that their performances should ape those of their Main Stem predecessors. This is especially true of nonunion tours that hire individuals who assisted the original Broadway director and essentially stage a carbon copy.
Happily this is not the case for Dani de Waal, who plays the female lead character aptly, if generically, named Girl in the national tour of “Once,” which runs Wednesday-Sunday at the Shubert Theater.
“No, not at all,” answered de Waal on the question of mimeographed performances, speaking from Tampa, where “Once” performed on Valentine’s Day. She described Steve Kazee and Christin Milioti, who premiered in the lead roles of “Once,” as “such unique and specific, strong performers that if we just tried to replicate them it would be disastrous.
“And we’re not similar to Christin and Steve, so we were given license to find it for ourselves,” she said. “We were given our script and that’s what we go on.”
Surely de Waal and her co-star, Stuart Ward, known onstage as Guy, have mirrored enough actors. Ward understudied Guy in the London production and de Waal’s last gig before this was understudying four parts in last year’s Broadway revival of William Inge’s “Picnic.” The chance to not only occupy but also actually own a richly layered character from a hit show that won eight Tony Awards is theatrical manna from heaven.
Not that it fell quickly or easily from the sky, according to de Waal (shown above in a Joan Marcus photo).
“I auditioned six times over six months,” she said in her native British accent. “I had to play piano, read sides, and sing the songs. So, it was quite extensive.”
As one who saw both the Broadway musical and writer-director John Carney’s independent, 2006 film on which the musical is based, de Waal knew that the job was well worth her effort. She plays a Czech immigrant who “meets cute,” as Billy Wilder would say, Guy, a busker, or street musician, in Dublin. Absolutely devoid of any self-esteem as a singer-songwriter, Guy finds his muse in Girl. As one may well suspect, “Once” is a love story. It is, however, anything but the expected romantic musical comedy. All one needs to watch is any of the “dance” numbers choreographed by Steven Hoggett that, as de Waal accurately said, “are not ‘routines’ at all.”