By John Benson
22222Then there’s musician-actor John Steven Gardner, who stressed he’s not normally fanatical; however, there was something about the 2007 Academy Award-winning film “Once” that spoke directly to his soul.
“When it first came out on DVD, I was watching the movie probably twice a week,” said Gardner, calling from Philadelphia. “I was obsessed, and I could not stop watching it. When I heard they were doing a stage production with actors and musicians, I kind of put the blinders on and was like, ‘I don’t care how long it takes me. I have to find my way into that show at some point.’”
Getting on that show happened earlier this year when the actor- musician was cast in the national tour of “Once,” which is based on the 2007 film that was written and directed by John Carney and starred Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The latter two also provided original music and lyrics.
“Once” tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together.
As for the musical “Once,” it made its Broadway debut in February 2012 where it remains today. Earlier this year it won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. Gardner said the biggest difference between the movie and stage version is just the expansion of the “Once” universe.
This includes not only an expanded cast list but also the fleshing out of songs that Gardner said provide audiences with a fuller musical experience that naturally includes centerpiece track “Falling Slowly,” which won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original song.
As appealing as the soundtrack may be, there’s something about “Once” — going from a small-budget indie movie to Tony Award-winning show — that has a life of its own.
“The story itself is very real,” Gardner said. “The one thing we keep talking about is there’s no sort of Hollywood ending. It tries to capture — very successfully, I think — what a lot of people in the audience have been through at some point. It’s that relationships don’t always have these big beautiful endings, that it’s complicated and things can really get in the way and keep two people who would really have a happy life together apart. And that’s OK.”
Another idea for the appeal of “Once” could be everyone can relate to having a broken vacuum cleaner at home that they don’t know what to do with.
“That’s right,” Gardner said, laughing. “It’s the joy of finding somebody on the street who fixes vacuum cleaners for a living.”