“Once” at The Colonial Theatre May Just Not Be Enough

As the summer season continues to move along, we are presented with yet another wonderful production of a show rarely seen in this area. Once, music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova with book by Enda Walsh, is based on the 2007 movie of the same name. Berkshire Theatre Group brings to The Colonial Theatre the 2012 multi-Tony award winning play.  The action takes place in Dublin and deals with depressed busker, “Guy”, who is about to give up singing when he is heard singing on the street by a Czech woman, “Girl”, who follows him relentlessly and insists he not give up on his dreams, both professionally, and those of the heart. 

Courtesy of The Berkshire Theatre Group.

From the moment they enter the theater, the audience is treated to the cast members singing on the stage, offering Irish standards and drinking songs, as a bar is set up inside the theater selling Guinness and Irish coffee as the play waits to begin. The program is one of the most uniquely designed pieces ever given an audience.  Immediately you are absorbed into the world of these people without yet knowing anything about them. 

Veteran director Gregg Edelman returns to Berkshire Theatre Group to mold this production with a deftness and tenderness that envelops the audience in a production as comforting as a cup of steaming hot Irish coffee on a cold autumnal evening.

The multi-layered set is the exterior of a Dublin Street and the interior of a local pub. Various other pieces are brought in and out by cast members as the action moves from Guy’s home to a production studio and music shop. It is the pub and the street that holds the majority of the action, however. Josafath Reynoso’s beautiful scenic design and Matthew E. Adelson’s lighting move us seamlessly everywhere the play’s action takes us. 

The thirteen member cast plays double duty – performing, singing and dancing all the while acting as the onstage orchestra, most of whom play multiple instruments throughout the production. Andy Taylor, the company’s musical director also acts and manages to never draw attention from the cast while conducting.

 It is difficult to pick out members of the cast as they are uniformly talented. Together, their voices unite in joy, sorrow and longing, while individually they propel the emotions of the show. Whenever the cast breaks into song, which is quite frequently, we are taken by the music to the depth of the conflict of the characters rather than the more one dimensional manner in which the characters have been written.

“Falling Slowly”, the Oscar-winning song sets the tone of melancholy and love, and of comfort and warmth for the production. “When Your Mind’s Made Up” so became a part of the scene that the audience became mesmerized and only burst into applause after the dialogue ended the scene.

Courtesy of The Berkshire Theatre Group.

David Toole (Guy), Andrea Gross (Gal), Pearl Rhein (Reza), and Adam Huel Potter (Billy) offer the breakthrough performances in a stellar cast. Potter’s comic timing and inflections are flawless. It is the company numbers that truly sweep the audience along. The stirring second act a capella version of “Gold” will have you believing you are living these people’s lives and standing with them at the ocean’s shore. 

The show is summed up quite accurately in the advice Guy’s father, Da – beautifully performed by Kurt Zischke – offers his son… “just live.”

Once is a delight. The attention to detail from photos of the various instruments each performer plays next to his/her head shots and bios in the program to the richness of the sets shows a thoughtfulness not often found in the theater today. This summer, the level of professionalism seen thus far on the stages throughout area continues to impress. We are being presented with an embarrassment of riches which should be taken advantage of. So, in the words of Da… just live. Get out, go to and support the theater.

Once is playing through July 16 at the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Pittsfield location The Colonial Theatre. Ticket prices range from $37.50 for teens to $90 for premium seats.  For more information: berkshiretheatregroup.org. or  call the box office: 413-997-4444.

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