The Phoenix Theatre Company Exposes Audiences to Busker Culture through Production of “Once”

By Laura Latzko

Everyone has a dream for something greater. The musical “Once” shows how love can help someone to realize these goals in life.

The Phoenix Theatre Company will put on the musical through Sunday, June 16.

“Once” tells the story of Guy, a man working in his father’s vacuum repair shop in Dublin by day and playing music at local bars by night. He meets Girl, a woman who inspires and pushes him to pursue his dreams.  

The musical was adapted by Enda Walsh, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from John Carney’s 2007 film “Once,” which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly.”

The musical won Eight Tony Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.

In The Phoenix Theatre Company’s production, Kyle Sorrell stars as Guy and Michelle Chin as Girl.  The cast is made up almost entirely of local actors.

Director Pasha Yamotahari, The Phoenix Theatre Company’s associate producing director, said with this production, he wanted to provide opportunities for Phoenix talent.  

Members of the orchestra pull double-duty in the show, serving as actors and musicians. A classically-trained cellist is also playing with the orchestra.  

Photo by Reg Madison Photography

During the casting process, the director looked for special skills such as the ability to play the guitar. He said that hobbies are increasingly becoming important for actors at different levels.  

Yamotahari has also directed Phoenix Theatre’s productions of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,”  “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” “One Man Two Guvnors” and “Our Town.”  

As an actor, he has starred in productions of “In the Heights,” “Baskerville,” “It’s Only a Play” and “The 39 Steps.”

The show spotlights the busker street performance culture of Dublin.   

The musicians will help to set the stage during the pre-show with live music. The director wanted to create an experience like walking into a bar in Dublin.

Yamotahari recently had a chance to experience busker culture during his travels, which took him to Ireland, Scottsdale, Sweden, Finland, France, Iceland and Canada. He found it important when directing “Once” to bring the sights and sounds of Dublin’s streets to the Phoenix stage.  

In preparation for the show, the director took about 300 photos during his trip. These images have served as inspiration for the set.

Photo by Reg Madison Photography

Yamotahari hoped to showcase buskers’ celebration of music, history and culture and to highlight how one voice can inspire an entire group.

The two main characters, the Guy and Girl, don’t have names within the show. Yamotahari said this helps to send the message that any person could become the next big voice, with the right talent and encouragement.

Larger issues, such as living in another country as an immigrant, experiencing poverty and being a single mother, are highlighted through different characters’ stories.

Event Details:

The Phoenix Theatre Company’s Production of “Once”

Wednesdays through Sundays, through June 16

1825 N. Central Ave., Phoenix  

Tickets start at $29