Review | Out of the Box Theatre’s ‘Once’ Is a Delight
Haunting Romance, Beautiful Music, and Comedic Moments Add Up to a Lovely Production
I have to admit, I held my breath for the first couple of songs, nervously waiting to see what would happen when Out of the Box Theatre Company took on the challenge of “Falling Slowly,” the most iconic song in the musical (and the movie) Once. It’s such a great song, but you have to fall in love with the cast as they play it for the show to work. Could they really pull it off?
They most certainly could.
Sam Kulchin — a Santa Barbara–raised musician who may be best known locally as part of the cover band The Caverns — was more than up to the task of the role of Guy, the lead in this charmingly romantic and soul stirring show. Playing opposite Mica Basilici as Girl, an actor and musician making their Santa Barbara stage debut, the two leads have a truly delightful connection, and I am quickly hooked by their interplay, just like the rest of the audience.
Once is the story of two lonely souls connecting over music, and this beautifully told tale of an unconsummated romance really takes off after Guy and Girl have their first moment of musical connection with the aforementioned “Falling Slowly.” Kulchin in particular does an outstanding job as he attacks the music with his voice and his guitar and lets his emotions lead his way into the audience’s hearts — as well as winning over Girl’s. Also giving me the chills were “The Moon” and the stunning “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” with a powerful second-act reprise that includes the entire band slowly joining in and bringing the energy up to a fever pitch.
Basilici shows excellent comic timing in their role as a young Czech mother who is born to be a boss. There’s also an entertainingly game group of supporting actor-musicians filling out the cast, including the adorable 7-year-old Evelyn Steinbaum as Ivonka, Girl’s daughter, who takes the stage like a pro. Her father, Glenn Steinbaum, is also a standout as Svec, a big guy with a comic heart of gold, alongside Quinn Halgrimson as Reza, who adds a bit of spiciness to the stage.
With hauntingly memorable music, convincing romantic chemistry, and dozens of laugh-out-loud moments, this production of Once truly is a delight. You can still catch it at Center Stage Theater this week, April 21-23. See centerstagetheater.org.
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