“Once” and for all - cast talk about major success and 11 Tony nominations - VIDEOS
David Patrick Kelly and Erikka Walsh about the atmosphere backstage over the enthusiastic salute from Broadway’s insiders
“The great Woody Guthrie had carved on his guitar the phrase ‘This Machine Kills Fascists,’” says Kelly. “I think that 'Once' is a machine that defeats cynicism.”
It’s a major surprise to see Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s name attached to the show as the author of the book. Walsh, 45, has made his reputation writing plays about massively dysfunctional Irish families, and 'Once' represents an important creative departure for him.
It’s often harder to write with sincerity about love and affection, but Walsh manages it with real grace.
“Enda has written these beautiful, aching words,” says Kelly. “He’s such a wonderful playwright that his script remains fresh. I think it even surprised him.
“His work is generally very, very dark and so to create something about the power of love, music and art. It’s harder to do something like that and not make it sentimental. It’s very tricky.”
It’s fair to say that the staged musical as it now stands uses the music and plotline of the original film, but it’s very much its own beast, having long since expanded on the outline that was provided by the film.
“It’s such an honor for me to finally do an Irish play, and I feel like I’m starting at the top,” says Kelly. “My whole life I have never worked on an Irish play so it’s really a homecoming for me and a great honor.”
That honor was compounded last week when Ireland’s first citizen paid a visit to the show.
“Last week we had the Irish President Michael D. Higgins and his wife come to see us, and I could really hear my own Irish grandparents cheering,” says Kelly, who was clearly thrilled by the experience.
Meanwhile for Erikka Walsh, who is a classically trained violinist, performing in 'Once' is an opportunity to come into contact with the complexity and emotional range of Irish traditional music for the first time in her career. Both performers clearly revel in the results on stage each night.
Walsh, who is making her Broadway debut, still admits she finds it hard to believe she’s even on the stage, never mind starring in a show that has walked away with the most Tony nominations this year.
Does she dare to imagine, as I confidently do, that 'Once' will carry off the Best Musical award this year?
“From your mouth to God’s ears,” she laughs. “Tuesday night’s performance, just after the nominations were announced, was like opening night all over again.
“The enthusiasm, the energy and the audience were just amazing. We raised the roof that night. We know that we’re creating something great on that stage every evening and we hope it translates to the audience.”
Walsh plays the ex-girlfriend of the hero Guy, and she’s also on stage playing music throughout most of the show. It’s a perspective that allows her to see how much the public responds to the story.
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