Movie fans and theatergoers seem to love nothing better than a good rags-to-riches story.
The phenomenal success enjoyed by “Once,” a musical that eschews spectacle for intimacy, is just such a tale.
It began life as an unassuming Irish film, shot on a budget of 180,000 euros (about $202,000 at current exchange rates), written and directed by John Carney. It stars Glen Hansard as a Dublin busker (“Guy”) and Marketa Irglova (“Girl”) as a Czech songwriter who meet and fall in love. It’s a love affair never consummated, and after playing and writing songs together they part ways.
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Nobody was surprised when it became a Broadway musical, because it seemed like a natural evolution. The stage show included all the songs in the movie plus two more by Hansard and Irglova. Adapted by Enda Walsh and directed by John Tiffany, the show basically unfolds on one set representing an Irish pub and follows the movie’s storyline fairly closely.
It won eight 2012 Tony Awards, including one naming it best musical. The cast recording was also a hit and claimed a 2013 Grammy Award.
Now the touring production comes to the Kauffman Center, where audiences will be able to watch the show in a relatively intimate setting. The touring cast includes Stuart Ward as Guy and Dani de Waal as Girl.
In a brief telephone interview, de Waal says that although she plays a songwriter in the show, she is not one herself.
“Stuart, who plays Guy, is very much so,” she said. “In fact, he has an album out that I played on. So it was kind of like life imitating art.”
De Waal, 25, was born in Germany, raised in England and is now based in the United States.
“I played piano from when I was 6, but I sort of lost touch with it,” she said. “But this show has brought that side of me back to life again.”
In “Once,” she said, the music is woven organically into the narrative. The show doesn’t really stop for a “big number.” It’s all of a piece.
“We would rehearse everything as one so we didn’t separate the music from the play,” she said. “We basically never leave the stage. I’m like Girl, the character. She’s very funny, and she’s fun to play. And Stuart is a fantastic actor.”
The tour continues through December. After that, de Waal said she had no idea what she would be doing next.
“I’ll be hitting the audition circuit,” she said.
To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Once” runs through June 21 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Call 816-994-7222 or go to www.theaterleague.com.