The latest production from Theatre 166 is described as "hauntingly beautiful" and a "one-of-a-kind theatrical experience."
Winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards including Best Musical, "Once" features an ensemble of actors/musicians who play their own instruments onstage. It’s the tale of a Dublin street musician, Guy, who’s about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman, Girl, takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs.
Emotionally captivating and theatrically breathtaking, "Once" draws you in from the very first note and never lets go. It’s a story about going for your dreams, not living in fear and the power of music to connect all of us.
Director Michael Thomas has been a fan of the show since seeing it on Broadway 10 years ago.
"One of the biggest differences between 'Once' and any other musical on the Broadway stage is that its cast is asked not only to sing, act and move, but also to play a musical instrument," he said. "And not just noodle around on it, but play it well."
The cast of 12 actors/musicians includes people from around the country, including Chicago, Nashville and New York City.
Chicago resident plays one of lead roles
Daniella Rukin, who plays Girl, lives in Chicago. She learned about the Mansfield show online.
"I have always loved the play 'Once,''' Rukin said.
The Chicago resident plays piano, just like her character.
"It's a part I've always wanted to do," Rukin said. "I love every musical where you perform with your own instrument on stage.
"I love that it ('Once') is a very natural musical. Every actor in it plays an instrument."
Rukin said she will play Girl with an accent. She noted there is no definitive Czech accent, but she did extensive research to see how people speak in different regions of the country.
She described her character.
"I play a woman who has moved to Dublin from her home in the Czech Republic," Rukin said. "Things haven't worked out for her the way she planned, so she feels pretty lost."
At least until she meets Guy while he is busking.
"I just go over and start talking to him, and we end up in a relationship of sorts," Rukin said. "They end up enriching each other's lives."
She said the relationship lasts for only a few days but offered no details.
"You'll have to come see the show," Rukin said.
She added the music is "beautiful."
"It's not your typical Broadway show. It's not your belters," Rukin said. "It's a lot more folksy."
She says she has thoroughly enjoyed her time in Mansfield, calling it the opposite of Chicago as a smaller town.
Rukin has fallen for the downtown and, "I love that I can park anywhere without having to worry about getting a ticket."
She also has clicked with the cast.
"Musicians just have this way of finding each other and bonding," Rukin said.
Lexington grad portrays Guy
Noah Sgambellone plays the role of Guy.
"He's just recently had his heart broken," Sgambellone said. "He's in the process of just giving up on everything."
That all changes when he meets Girl.
"She shares the same love of music. She kind of rekindles his love for it," Sgambellone said.
The 2019 Lexington graduate has been busy lately. He played a lead role in the recent Renaissance Theatre production of "Spring Awakening."
"The difference between the two shows is like night and day," Sgambellone said. "To go from death and misery to hope and love is interesting. It's a fun transition."
He's also making the transition from the expansive Renaissance Theatre to the intimate Theatre 166, which he appreciates.
"The people that come see it are going to feel more involved with what's going on with the actors," Sgambellone said. "It's almost like a movie."
He plays acoustic guitar in "Once."
Thomas credited Larry Miller and his staff at Metronome Music for their help in that department.
"They have been so generous in lending us instruments and advising us," the director said. "It's impossible to calculate the impact Metronome has had on area musicians for the past 60 years."
If you go
Where: Theatre 166, 166 Park Avenue West
When: 8 p.m. April 22, 23, 29 and 30; 2:30 p.m. April 24 and May 1.
Tickets: $29. Because of limited seating at Theatre 166, patrons are encouraged to reserve seats early.
More information: Visit rentickets.org or call 419-522-2726.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Mansfield's Theatre 166 presenting 'Once' musical