Monday, February 8, 2016

Local girl makes good - as Girl

That's a classic (even clich├ęd) newspaper headline, but it was true last night at the State Theater in New Brunswick, N.J., where the second national tour of the Broadway musical Once stopped in.

The local girl, starring as the character literally called Girl, is Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, all of 20 years old and still a student at the Boston Conservatory. However, she's known to us in Mamaroneck, N.Y. from the middle school musicals and, for this writer, for playing Ado Annie in Oklahoma! in 2009. Even then, she was a pro, only able to play one of the four shows since she had a filming date on a TV series called Salamander.

Mackenzie Lesser-Roy
Along with a former middle school friend who was also in Oklahoma!, and her college roommate, we headed down for the show.

As I blogged in 2012, I had fond memories of the Broadway run. Winner of eight Tony awards, Once was pure magic for me. 

Based on the 2006 film, it's the story of a Dublin street musician and the Czech immigrant who pushes him to greater artistic heights.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova created the original show, based on their story, and the Oscar-winning song, "Falling Slowly," as well as the rest of the wistful score.

In this cast, Sam Cieri brings a tentative sadness to Guy, who gains confidence as Girl expresses her belief in him and participates in his music with her piano playing.

Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy in rehearsal
Not a conventional musical, the actors play instruments onstage and perform choreographer Steve Hoggett's stylized movements to underscore particular emotions in a scene and for scene changes.

Mackenzie beautifully transmits Girl's charming intensity -- "I am always serious. I am Czech." -- and wisdom, as she knows she and Guy's relationship is facing serious obstacles.

A scene from Once.

Her piano work is beautiful and, like all the greats, she makes it look so darn easy. There's no lessening of Broadway quality in this tour company, with a uniformly excellent cast. The tour winds through the east and Midwest, ending in Denver on May 24. I highly recommend seeing this show. Mackenzie, we are so proud.