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Oregon Cabaret Theatre stages musical ‘Once”

“Once,” an Irish pop and folk-infused musical inspired by the eponymous 2007 independent hit film, tells the story of a Dublin street musician who is ready to give up the dream when a beautiful young woman takes an interest in his haunting love songs.

The two serve as each other’s muse for one fateful week, and their friendship evolves into a powerful but complicated romance as they create new, emotionally charged music.

“Once” previews Thursday, April 26, opens Friday, April 27, and runs through July 1 at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, corner of First and Hargadine streets, Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays and select Wednesdays. Matinees are at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Preview tickets are $25. All other tickets are $25 or $39. Tickets and information are available at oregoncabaret.com or by calling 541-488-2902.

With music by folk artists Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who starred in the film, the musical premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2011, before moving to Broadway in 2012. The production received 11 Tony Award nominations and won eight, including Best Musical, Best Actor and Best Book. It also won a 2012 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical and a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

“The musical, which brought in Irish playwright Enda Walsh to write the book, takes the heart of the film ­— the relationship between lovers Guy and Girl — and weaves it into an interactive, intimate musical experience,” says director Valerie Rachelle. “The overwhelming success of ‘Once’ lies within the heart of its message. It reminds us how beauty can be found in pain, how art can be made from heartbreak, and how believing in each other can create magic. ‘Once’ encourages us to listen with more than just our ears, but with our hearts as well.”

“Guy and Girl are the biggest roles in the show,” adds OCT manager Rick Robinson, “but you never hear what their names are in the show.”

Christopher Fordinal plays Guy, and Olivia Nice makes her Oregon Cabaret debut as Girl.

“Girl is a tough role to cast,” Robinson says. “It requires a strong singer, a mastery of Czech dialect, skilled acting chops and a classically trained pianist. It’s a tall order, but Nice blew away Val, the director, and Johnathan, the casting director, who were watching the audition.”

Livia Genise plays Barushka, Girl’s mother; John Lambie plays Da, Guy’s dad; Haley Forsyth plays Guy’s ex-girlfriend; and a spate of newcomers play the remaining roles in the cast.

The 12 actors also serve as a live orchestra in the musical, playing acoustic instruments from violin, cello, piano and concertina to more traditional instruments such as mandolin, accordion, guitar, drums, electric bass and banjo.

Sound design is by Graham Howatt of Portland.

Look for Hansard’s and Irglová’s plaintive and rousing songs, including their Oscar-winning hit “Falling Slowly,” along with “If You Want Me,” “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”

The songs tell this simple story in the style of a new era of show tunes, where music and movement punctuate and give expression to the characters’ moods and hopes.

The creative team also includes co-director and costume designer Lauren Blair, musical director Mike Wilkins, set designer Joe Klug, lighting designer Chris Wood, technical director Christopher Burkhardt and properties designer Drew Bangs.

Add a dining reservation to your ticket order.

Oregon Cabaret’s new head chef Chris McSevney, a native of Scotland, has designed a menu for this production of “Once.” Since the musical is set in Dublin, dinner show patrons can look for traditional Irish stew, Northwest salmon with white wine and parsley cream sauce, colcannon (a mash of greens and potatoes) and a chocolate and Guinness cake.

Reservations are required for pre-show dinners and brunches. Appetizers, beverages and desserts are available without reservations.

Olivia Nice as Girl and Christopher Fordinal as Guy in Oregon Cabaret Theatre’s production of “Once.”