Some modern romances are essentially fairy tales. “Once” is the perfect example, its title likely even drawn from the phrase “once upon a time.”
In South Coast Repertory’s 2017-18 Segerstrom Stage season opener, it’s easy to see how this fairly modest show took Broadway by storm in 2012, capturing Tony Awards for best musical and book as well as a few million hearts with its unpretentious tale, simple framework, straightforward plot and characters whose charm and humanity grow on you.
As if to underscore that “Once” isn’t like most stories, the focal couple are simply Guy and Girl, which adds to the fable-like quality and expands the musical’s all-inclusive nature.
We’re in Dublin, where singer-songwriter Guy (Rustin Cole Sailors) is struggling to mend a broken heart six months after his now Ex-Girlfriend (Marnina Schon) left him for the brighter prospects of New York City.
Meanwhile, Girl (Amanda Leigh Jerry), a Czech immigrant, hears something special in his music. Acutely perceptive, she draws conclusions he hasn’t even fathomed: His aching love songs were inspired by his ex, and Girl concludes that if she heard his music, he could win her back.
The rest of “Once” traces Girl’s efforts to play matchmaker for the former couple by helping Guy become recognized as a unique musical voice. Over the course of five days, she becomes his champion and agent – and, more critically, his confidant and friend.
As Guy exposes his wounded heart, his feelings of love are gradually transferred from his ex to Girl. But, in true fairy-tale fashion, she is chaste and pure, and determined to keep her…