The cast of Once

Once is not enough

Irish folkies fall in love in acclaimed musical ONCE

ONCE, winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, comes to the Hult Center Jan. 17-18.

EW recently caught up with its star, Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, 21, who plays the show’s lead, known as “Girl.” 

“I love Girl,” Lesser-Roy says. “She is, first and foremost, strong. And she’s beautifully honest.” 

The musical tells the story of an Irish musician (Guy) and a Czech immigrant (Girl), drawn together by their shared love of music.

“Girl doesn’t have much money,” Lesser-Roy explains. “But she has an optimistic outlook on life. She takes care of her friends, her mother and her little girl.” 

The show features the music and lyrics of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, and book by Irish playwright and screenwriter Enda Walsh. 

“The music is timeless,” Lesser-Roy says. “It’s simple, the way it tells the story. It touches your heart.”

The score, she says, is both personal and universal. “They’re singing songs from the standpoint of their lives, but you can relate your life to them,” Lesser-Roy adds. 

And as a love story, Once offers a refreshing departure. “They’re very real people,” Lesser-Roy says. “Their stories are individual to them, but they seem real, awkward, genuine.” 

Audience members are invited on stage before the performance and during intermission to mingle with performers and musicians as if they are not merely in a theater, but patrons at a charming Irish pub.

With tunes that Lesser-Roy describes as “folksy, new age, like a modern day Joni Mitchell, but with a rock and roll element,” this is a musical for people who don’t necessarily like musicals.

Lesser-Roy has been touring with the show for a year, and is now nearing her 200th performance. “It’s tough, the travel wears you down,” she says. “Some weeks, you’re traveling every day to get to a show.”

But, she says, “then you get there, and that magic happens. You get out onstage, and you’re hearing the music and saying the lines, and it wakes you up.”

“The material is so beautiful,” Lesser-Roy adds. “I find new things all the time.”

Tickets for ONCE are available online at, at the Hult Center ticket office or by calling 541-682-5000.