People are comparing this production to Broadway, and guess who comes out on top!

By Andrew Andrews

PJ Kraus and Lynne Czajka star in certain performances of The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck's production of Once. Original production photos by Olivia Michaels.

Based on the film of the same name, Once tells the story of a thirty-something guitar player busking on the streets of Dublin, approached by a young Czech woman captivated by his songs about the girlfriend who left him for New York.

Although the busker is ready to throw in the towel because he finds too much suffering in singing, the very attractive woman insists that he has too much potential and still too much to resolve.

A friendship with romantic undertones quickly develops between the two, but the young woman insists that her life as a single mother with an abandoned husband is already too complicated to allow her to forge a new relationship.

Instead, the unnamed woman persuades the unnamed busker to take out a loan to record an album of his music, believing he is talented enough to win a recording contract and fly to New York in search of fame, success and his lost love.

Rena Gavigan (center) and Frank McGinnis (not shown) also star in some performances, with Emily Woolever (standing, left) and Jordan Stroly (standing, right) in supporting roles.

The outdoor stage at The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck is a wonderful place to spend a sunny summer evening, and presented the perfect opportunity for the premiere get-together of my new Meetup group.

I’ve never seen the movie or the musical before, but other members of the group noted a few differences in this production, such as the inclusion of a modern dance performer as the ghost-like memory of the girlfriend, holding the busker’s attention with every delivery of one of his melancholy songs.

Although I personally didn’t find the story or music particularly compelling, and felt the performance lacked a certain oomph I find impossible to pin down, my new friends were quite satisfied with the production, and one person even said they enjoyed The Center’s version of the story much more than the show they saw on Broadway a few years back.

The large cast of multi-disciplinary actors—many of whom also played instruments during the musical numbers—deserve a lot of credit for even taking the stage in ninety-plus-degree heat, wearing layer upon layer of costume with the setting sun shining directly into their faces.

The three Meetup group members who joined me for this performance all felt the experience was worthy of at least four stars. Perhaps it’s because the impressive Mac-Haydn production of She Loves Me was still too fresh in my mind, but I just don’t feel this show rose to the bar set the evening before.

Nonetheless, the socially-distanced, picnic-friendly performances at The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck are an excellent value, and a great way to enjoy what’s left of the warm summer evenings before the kids head back to school.


Andrew Andrews attended Once at The Center for Performing Arts Outdoor Stage in Rhinebeck on Friday, August 13, 2021 @ 8:00pm to write this review.