Big Broadway success, ‘Once’ deserves smaller venue intimacy


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“Once,” a Broadway hit ran for over 1,100 performances and collected eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, opened locally for its Kansas City community theatre debut at The Arts Asylum, produced by The Barn Players.

A small show as opposed to a large, grand, Broadway-style musical deserves a smaller more intimate setting for the story to unfold.  A smaller venue puts the audience inside the story and creates the illusion that the audience sits within the story rather than watching if from afar.  The Arts Asylum creates the motif necessary for that bonding with actors and audience members.

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The small show about a couple in Dublin who meet by happenstance and strike=up a whirlwind friendship, that leads to mutual feelings. The story involves an angry vacuum cleaner salesman who writes music and a Czech immigrant in need of a vacuum repair.

The man, played by Robert Hingula, and the girl, played by Kelsie Massey quickly discover their mutual attraction for each other and examine the paths they followed to reach the point where two seemingly different people forge a meaningful relationship that benefits both parties.

“Once” keeps the audience guessing where the story leads and how the two characters’ stories lead. The show ends differently that most would expect. The set, many different doors, projects the idea of doors of opportunity and also of closed doors of missed opportunity.

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A unique love story, “Once” focuses on two lost souls meeting, falling in love, and revisiting past loves to find their way forward. The story brings unpleasant memories and loves into the story of two friends who fall in love; yet, their pasts affect their futures. The story depicts painful pasts on the way to future situations.

With an on stage band who steps in as characters, “Once” weaves an beautiful story of love, peppered with unique characters who help unroll the story. Set in Dublin, the music sound uniquely Irish in composition.

With the talents of Robert Hingula and Kelsie Massey, “Once” allows both th display their vocal and acting chops. Hingula’s initial sorrow melts because of the quirky character of Massey presents who busts into his private thoughts and forcefully breaks down his walls of isolation. Not to be denied, Massey’s characters treads on Hingula’s innermost thoughts. As the main character Hingula slowly allows his inner healing to begin and come forward in his music from his heart.

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“Once” leads to an unexpected conclusion that will surprise those unfamiliar with the movie that the story is based. Hats off to Barb Nichols for her direction for this community theatre debut in KC.

Plan ahead to secure tickets because of COVID protocols and social distancing. Seats are limited to all performances. The show continues at The Arts Asylum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Once cast: GIRL – Kelsie Massey, GUY – Robert Hingula, BARUSKA – Erica Baruth, BILLY – Brent Nanney, BANK MANAGER – Phil Howard, SVEC – Christoph Cording, ANDREJ – Brian Houchin, EAMON – Andrew Ramaley, REZA – Betsy Bledsoe, IVANKA – Ivy Sollenberger, DA – Chip Buckner, ENSEMBLE – Cara Hampton, Anne Haines, Mike Peterson, Kieran Ojakangas.

Tags: “Once”, The Arts Asylum, The Barn Players, Musical Theatre, Kansas City, Arts & Entertainment, Theatre


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