A Heartbreaking and Healing Once at the Oriental Theatre

You'd be hard pressed to think of anything more intimate than the act of making music. Through music, one exposes themselves in a way that transcends mere talking or movement. It's the ultimate exposure of one's soul. And such rawness makes for compelling storytelling.

Once, the 2012 Best Musical Tony winner based on the 2006 Irish film, celebrates music's innate power. Chicago is lucky to host the stellar first national tour of this stunning new work for a short few weeks, and it's a must-see.

Directed by John Tiffany with book by Enda Walsh and songs by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Once offers an unlikely love story between two lost souls who find each other through music -- and rediscover themselves along the way. And oh what music it is. Featuring an ensemble of equally talented actor-singer-musicians, this is the kind of show that must give casting directors nightmares. And the cast of this first-rate national tour possibly couldn't be bettered.

Led by Stuart Ward and Dani De Waal is "Guy and "Girl" in this universal love story, every player brings something special to this touching presentation of story and song. Through Walsh's masterfully stripped down script, you slowly grow invested in Ward and De Waal's fateful relationship. It's equal parts heartbreaking and healing as their mutual love of music evolves into a space neither of them are ready to take on, even though they must to survive.

While music is certainly the core of this play, what elevates the material into the stars is Steven Hoggett's hypnotically choreographed movement, which seems to pull the players toward their individual destinies. The destination of this bittersweet tale isn't as much a happy ending as it is an honest one. And if there's anything this show is, it's pure, unadorned, straight-from-the-heart honesty.

"Once" plays through October 27 at the Oriental Theatre. More info here