Thursday, March 28, 2024

They love each other for naught


Kaylee Miltersen is Girl and Jake Gale is Guy. (Tracy Martin photo)

“Once” is the story of love between a man and woman that probably cannot be.

In the case of this musical presented by Hillbarn Theatre & Conservatory, the man, called Guy (Jake Gale), is busker-vacuum cleaner repair man in Ireland in 2011. The woman, called Girl (Kaylee Miltersen), is Czech. Both have musical aspiration.

Both also have lost their loves. His girlfriend has moved to New York City. Her husband, unknown to Guy, has moved on without her and their young daughter. Guy wants to abandon music, but Girl, recognizing his talent, encourages him to continue.

As their story unfolds, they and the other adults in the cast play instruments, sing and dance onstage. Characters who aren’t part of a scene sit on the sidelines and often join in the music.

Even before the show begins, the high-energy cast entertains the audience with lively songs and dances. At intermission, audience members can buy a drink at a bar set up on the left side of the stage.

Because the characters speak with either an Irish or Czech accent, they’re sometimes hard to understand, but the underlying message comes through.

Artistic director Stephen Muterspaugh directs the multi-talented actors as they create very human characters. However, his blocking sometimes has a piano or actor’s back blocking the view from far-left seats.

Francesca Cipponeri is credited with the energetic choreography. The musical director is Amie Jan with vocal direction by Joseph Murphy. The scenic design is by Christopher Fitzer with lighting by Pamila Gray, costumes by Lisa Claybaugh and sound by Jeff Mockus.

“Once” is a somewhat unusual musical, but on the whole it’s quite entertaining. It has a book by Enda Walsh with music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

Running about two hours and 20 minutes with an intermission, it will continue through April 7 at Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City.

For tickets and information, call (650) 349-6411 or visit