‘Once’ transforms traditional story elements

Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy in the “Once.” JOAN MARCUS/CONTRIBUTED

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Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy in the “Once.” JOAN MARCUS/CONTRIBUTED

A guy, a girl live dreams via musical energy.

A guy, a girl, love, dreams and music are story elements as old as stories themselves. The Tony Award-winning musical “Once” has made them seem as fresh as ever.

With those concepts at work, names aren’t necessary for the lead characters, known simply as “guy” and “girl” as their personalities develop among energy that makes it stand apart from many traditional musicals.

“The way this story is told is very real, in a very contemporary way,” said Barry DeBois, the swing actor who can play the lead role of guy and the show’s emcee. “People don’t break into song in an unrealistic way. It’s very palatable for large audiences.”

With its romantic story and Irish setting, the national Broadway tour of “Once” offers a combination of post Valentine’s Day, pre St. Patrick’s Day spirit when it bows at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5, at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.

This is a joint presentation for the Broadway and Beyond Series, presented by the Clark State Performing Arts Center and the Springfield Arts Council.

A modest 2007 movie with an Oscar-winning Best Original Song, “Falling Slowly,” “Once” came to Broadway in 2012 and became a blockbuster, tallying 11 Tony nominations and eight wins including Best Musical and Best Actor.

While the music and story stand out, other features make it unique. The actors are also the orchestra, with everybody playing, singing and acting.

“That was a real game-changer when it debuted,” said DeBois. “It brings a certain energy that it’s not scored. It’s more like a band than an orchestra really.”

The performers are able to add a new lick to their numbers or something to their characters that DeBois said makes it exciting for an actor.

“It’s a living breathing thing, a new show every night,” he said.

This tour has been going since January 2016. That means Debois never knows when he may be called on to play guy in place of the lead, considering it like being a first responder and it brings out certain energy.

A North Canton, Ohio, native, DeBois got his degree at Kent State University and worked for six years as a mechanical engineer. But the call of the footlights was too strong.

In addition to traveling with “Once,” DeBois is a multitalent with acting, music, writer and filmmaker on his resume.

While being on the road with “Once” for so long can be tough, he sees the upsides.

“We’ve seen so much of the country, played in so many incredible theaters, eaten the best food. You miss your family, but it’s not just a gig. ‘Once’ is an incredible story to tell.”

Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com.

How to go

What: “Once”

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, Kuss Auditorium, 300 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5

Admission: $60, 50, 40

More info: 937-328-3874 or http://pac.clarkstate.edu/events

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