Wilbury adds new life to ‘Once’


“Once”, the minimalist movie that became a theatrical hit is the simple story of unrequited love.

Set primarily in a Dublin bar, the simple tale has some nice music and lighthearted book.

Wilbury Theatre, under the spirited direction of Artistic Director, Josh Short, has expanded the musical, using every available space in the Waterplace building, and given the audience two hours of feel-good theatre.

Josh does this by using 18 actor/musicians playing everything from accordions to violins as accompaniment to the main characters: a guy (Nile Scott Hawver) and a girl (Alison Russo).

The guy is a down and out Irish singer/songwriter who writes about his lost love who has moved to New York City.

The girl is an energetic Czeck pianist whose husband has left her with a young daughter.

She hears his sad song to his lost love and quickly discovers the talent within him, encouraging him to release that talent, which he eventually does, shifting his feelings in his music towards her.

She resists his advances, but pursues a platonic friendship, encouraging and helping him cut a demo tape, raise money, and assemble a band.

Does boy get girl in the end? I won’t tell.

I had seen the movie and the musical (On the large proscenium stage at PPAC) and was not overly thrilled with the story but enjoyed the music.

The intimacy of the Wilbury space changed all that. Musicians surrounded the stage, playing softly in the background on the guy and girl’s ballads and then filling the stage with music and dance to move the change of scenes along smoothly.

If you arrive early, you’ll enjoy the musicians warming up on stage.

Some of them also double in supporting roles.

Jason Quinn adds a bit of needed humor to his role, while actor/director/URI Professor Vince Petronio plays the mandolin (quite well) and is the guy’s father.

Alison Russo, hot from a long run as one of the twins in Gamm’s hilarious “Twelfth Night” is the perfect fit for the girl, with all the energy, enthusiasm, and marvelous voice needed for the role.

Keep your eye on her. She is a most talented actress.

FLASH: Wilbury’s quick response for tickets has moved the theatre to extend the run of “Once” to June 23rd. And that’s for a PG rated show!


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