To celebrate the Darlinghurst Theatre bringing a Tony Award-winning musical to Sydney, we sat down with the cast of ‘Once’ to discuss the challenges such a show presents.
With The Darlinghurst Theatre bringing to the Tony Award-winning musical, Once to Sydney, Connor McCallum spoke to the show’s cast, Cameron Daddo, Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis.
For those who may not be familiar with the Tony Award-winning musical, Once, can you tell us in one sentence what you want people to know about it?
Toby: Once is an incredible musical with Oscar-winning music that speaks about the heart of what it is to really love somebody.
Stefanie: It’s a beautiful story that captures humanity at its most vulnerable.
Cameron: Once is a musical that people who don’t like musicals love. A very earthy musical. A lot of heart and a lot of humour.
What was the most challenging part of approaching your role?
Toby: Definitely trying to live up to the standard that Glen Hansard set. He’s an incredible guitarist, an incredible songwriter, he’s got a lot of passion in how he sings…just making sure I was able to interpret that without copying it but still staying true to it. That was definitely the biggest challenge.
Stefanie: The piano has been the most challenging but exciting part of my process. I’ve been playing for years, however, never as a part of a band and I am so grateful to have been surrounded by phenomenal musicians because they have guided me every step of the way.
Cameron: The music sounds simpler than it is. It is a lot more complex than I anticipated it would be. Marrying the music with the movement was really challenging.
How do you feel this play is in sync with the current Sydney climate, when it comes to community and music?
Toby: I think music is kind of the lifeblood of most cities, isn’t it? I know personally, I really connected with the story. I’ve had a hell of time romantically the last couple of years and that’s kind of what the show is about. There’s a group catharsis that happens when you’ve got a whole bunch of people in a room together listening to somebody sing songs that everybody relates to, and I think that’s what you see when you’re out at a gig and everyone sort of connects with the song. There’s a feeling in the room that everyone feels understood. I wouldn’t say that it is even about the current time or the current culture—I think that’s universal and that’s why music, as a part of our culture, has endured.
Stefanie: I think more and more people are looking for opportunities to connect, and this show is about togetherness and connection through music.
Cameron: I feel like people are looking for a real emotional experience. We are so governed by social media, Instagram, Facebook, that sort of stuff, it feels like we are lacking real personal engagement, and I think Once offers that.
Once truly builds a foundation on resilience and human connection. What has this meant to you?
Toby: One of my best friends tells me that I’m loyal like a dog…that’s exactly what connection means to me. When someone is in your life who you connect with, understand completely, and who you have love for, whether platonic, romantic or familial, you can tell that that is what we are here for, what we are built for. To be part of groups and communities. When you don’t have that you feel incredibly lost, it feels like nothing is worth anything. Then when you find it, and you lean on those people—and I lean on those people a lot in my life—it is amazing what you can deal with. Anything can happen and it seems ok.
Stefanie: Our cast and creators have worked so close together since day one. It has been such a warm and generous room—the ideal environment for exploring this type of production. Doing justice to this award-winning show has required incredible resilience from everyone involved, because many a skill is being showcased in this show. Playing an instrument, singing and moving all at the same time to name a few.
Cameron: Well, I agree with that, just in terms of how the company is getting on and has gelled, the cast and creators. And then the responses afterwards from people who have seen the show, they get the same feeling. It has been amazing.
What do you hope audiences walk away learning (or simply enjoying most) after seeing Once?
Toby: I think it is a bitter-sweet story, but the word we are getting told people are walking away with is “beautiful”. I hope they walk away with that sentiment, feeling that yes, life is imperfect, but, that’s ok. Also, the music—the connection to the sounds and that music, there’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like the way Glen Hansard writes. He’s very specific, as far as my numbers go. I know that I have my part in my head for weeks. I want people to leave with a “human” feeling, that they feel understood but also that they feel like they want to just go and buy all the records and put them on.
Stefanie: Sometimes the best way to love somebody is not the expected way. That is definitely what I have taken away from the show. Sometimes a chance meeting can lead to healing. I hope that audiences walk away feeling uplifted and inspired.
Cameron: Simply that they have been felt. It is not a cerebral thing; it is more of a raw feeling.