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Actress says 'prepare to be moved' by Broadway tour of 'Once' at Kingsbury Hall

Producers with Broadway Across America Utah are convinced that audiences will “fall slowly” — but completely — for the Tony Award-winning musical “Once,” opening April 7 at Kingsbury Hall.

“Take someone you really, really like,” said Steve Boulay, chief operating officer of MagicSpace Entertainment. “It’s one of the most romantic musicals I’ve seen.”

“It is romantic, just make sure that person is going to be around for a while — or make it a first date,” said actress Maggie Hollinbeck, who will be playing Baruska in Salt Lake City. “But be prepared to be moved.”

“Once” is based on the 2007 movie of the same name — a surprise independent film showcasing the music and performances of a pair who were collaborators prior to the movie. Their song, “Falling Slowly,” would go on to win the Academy Award for best original song and is also featured in the musical adaptation, which opened on Broadway in 2012, garnering 11 Tony Award nominations and walking away with eight of the awards — including the one for best musical.

“One of the things that is so charming and really affecting about the piece is that it’s not simply a guy-meets-girl, guy-gets-girl story,” Hollinbeck said. “It has all the complexities that we face in real life, all the sticky situations and things that get in the way.”

But the piece is a bit of a guy-meets-girl in that the two main characters are referred to as just that: “Guy” and “Girl.” Guy is an Irish street musician living in Dublin who is ready to give up on his dream of making music. Then he meets Girl, a Czech immigrant musician who decides she’s not going to let him do that.

“They embark on a journey together of making music and getting to know one another,” Hollinbeck said. “And there’s a lot of emotion that gets stirred up.

“There’s a constant tension and dance between the romantic kinds of love versus the creative passion. And that may be what the characters in the play would consider a more noble kind of love: making your art and putting it out there.”

Hollinbeck, who has been with the tour for three months, first saw the musical on Broadway.

“I remember getting to the end and feeling so full, so satisfied, like I’d eaten a three-course dinner,” she said. “It’s a really rich evening of music and story, and people will leave with very full hearts.”

A piano student at age 3, Hollinbeck believed as she was growing up that she’d become a professional musician.

“Then I caught the acting bug in high school. But I’ve been very fortunate that a lot of my career has been because of my musical ability,” she said, noting that it’s becoming increasingly common for actors to also need to play instruments.

Hollinbeck plays the accordion in “Once,” a skill she acquired in Cedar City. “I was an onstage musician for the Utah Shakespeare Festival in ‘Twelfth Night,’ ” she said.

“We created the music as we went, and the music director wanted an accordion,” she said. “So I picked it up and learned some things and played it. I’m so grateful for that because accordion was the skill needed for this show.”

The tour for "Once" takes a week off during the summer, she said, and that week coincides with the opening week of the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

“I had the most magical time in Cedar City with the festival,” she said. “I’m so excited to go see the shows and my friends.

“But this story is lovely, and the way we tell it is so unique,” she said. “It’s quiet and intimate in a way that really invites the audience to sit forward, to have to listen and really engage. We want you to lean in.”

Content advisory: Profanity, including several instances of the F-word

If you go ...

What: "Once" national tour

When: April 7-12

Where: Kingsbury Hall, 1395 Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City

How much: $35-$80 (fees not included)

Phone: 801-581-7100

Web: kingsburyhall.utah.edu/performances/once

Erica Hansen was the theater editor at the Deseret News for more than three years. An area performer, she was also the original host of the radio program "Showtune Saturday Night."