Broadway musical hit ‘Once’ presented in Costa Mesa’s intimate theater – Orange County Register

The Broadway Company for the hit musical “Once” had six full weeks of workshops and rehearsals to get the flow of the music, dance numbers and story just right. South Coast Repertory’s adaptation of the multi-Tony Award winning production had three.

But time constraints did not stop SCR returning director Kent Nicholson and music director Andy Taylor from rallying together to adapt and present the hit musical as the opening production of South Coast Repertory’s 2017-18 season. Previews begin on Saturday, Sept. 2-7 and regular performances will run Sept. 9-30.

The musical, based on John Carney’s 2007 film of the same name, requires actors that can also play instruments, so Nicholson held auditions on both coasts to find his actor-musicians. Since the group could not rehearse together in person until just a few weeks before curtain, Taylor took the time to have individual rehearsal sessions via Skype to make sure each performer was prepared before rehearsals even began.

“The music wasn’t even available until a few weeks ago, so we had to ask everybody to rehearse a whole play, and spend the same amount of time they would spend in rehearsal, before they even started on their first day,” said Taylor, who, in addition to working as the musical director, will perform as the bank manager – a role he originated in the Broadway production.

“There are all kinds of challenges – from finding the people and figuring out all the mechanics, to dealing with broken strings on the guitars, to making sure the audience is going to be able to hear,” Nicholson said. “This musical requires people who are proficient in their particular instruments, sometimes multiple instruments, and also act, sing and move on stage while playing the instruments.”

Despite its challenges, Taylor said both the creative team and actors have taken on the show whole-heartedly to create a strong musical production for its audience to experience in a more intimate setting than its Broadway and national tour theaters.

Taking place at a pub in Dublin, the musical tells the story of “Guy,” played by actor Rustin Cole Sailors, who wants to quit his guitar and songwriting career as a street performer. A relationship is formed when he meets “Girl,” played by Amanda Leigh Jerry, who finds he is also a vacuum cleaner repairman – and her vacuum needs to be fixed – and she urges him to help her, to which he agrees to fix it for music instead of money.

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