By Janee Law
The newest show at John W. Engeman Theater in Northport Village is taking audiences overseas, to the streets and green landscapes of Dublin, Ireland.
Starting off in an Irish pub, “Once” warms up the crowd with pre-show melodies of high energy that set the stage for what’s to come.
The tale that follows delivers a captivating love story that follows Dublin street musician Guy (Barry DeBois) and Czech immigrant Girl (Andrea Goss). The couple meets at a time when both their lives have “stopped,” but soon help each other push forward.
The cast delivers the beautiful narrative through acoustic, folksy music and choreography while adding a touch of comedy to the mix.
Together, the relatable characters share an inspirational message of pursuing one’s dreams and the music’s powerful ability to form connections among people.
“Once,” which at Engeman is directed and choreographed by Trey Compton, with musical direction by James Olmstead, and Natalie Malotke as associate director and movement consultant, is an adaption of the eight-time Tony Award-winning feature that rocked Broadway from 2012-2015.
At Engeman, the talented ensemble shows off several skills. Not only does the cast act, sing and dance, but they also play instruments — guitar, drums, violin, piano, bass, cello, accordion, mandolin and viola, just to name a few — live on stage.
Joanne Freiberger, an audience member at last Thursday’s show with her daughter Amelia, said her favorite part was a slow dance during which cast members also play their instruments.
Freiberger, of Huntington, added, “We think the cast was great, a really talented bunch of musicians. It was definitely an exciting and unique theater experience.”
Other highlights of the show include the fittingly-titled “Gold.” For the number, the ensemble fills the stage with a musical brilliance that made audience members yearn for an encore.
“Once” delivers, but with a twist as the reprisal of “Gold” sees the characters put their instruments aside for an acapella rendition.
Musical numbers “If You Want Me,” “Sleeping,” “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and “The Hill” also show off the ensemble’s breathtaking ability to unite through music.
Another audience member, Diane Wilenski, of Centerport, called the production amazing. “This is Broadway in Northport,” she said.
“I think what stands out for me are the two main characters. I liked how down to earth and natural they were,” Wilenski added. “I loved [Girl’s] zest for life and how she kind of brought that out in Guy.”
Goss, who portrays Girl and plays piano in the show, said the character’s energy is a quality she loves to play with. She also finds Girl’s passion for music and need to help others incredible.
Goss’ favorite number to perform changes show-to-show, she said, but last Thursday it was “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”
She continued, “There’s something about the musicality of it when everybody comes in and our minds focus all the energy on Guy. There’s something really special about that.”
Showings of “Once” will continue at the 250 Main St. theater each Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 2 p.m.; through March 8. There are also select Wednesday, 8 p.m. and Sunday, 7 p.m. show dates.
Tickets ($73-$78) are available at the box office, or from Engemantheater.com.
New seasons kicks off July 19
The John Engeman Theater recently announced its 2018-2019 season.
The season kicks off July 19 with “Newsies,” and there’s plenty more to follow.
The full list of shows and dates is available online and includes: “Man of La Mancha,” “Elf the Musical,” “Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “Aida.”