ONCE at 42nd Street Moon
(San Francisco Regional Premiere)
But all those pale in comparison to the accomplished and compelling performance of Olivia Clari Nice as Girl. Just as her character seizes control of the show from the opening moments, so too does Nice seize control of our hearts and minds with a lovely, nuanced, deeply textured portrayal of Girl, a bloom-where-she's-planted sort of woman who makes the very best of every situation in which she finds herself. "Life is good. Even in Dublin," she says. Her accent is sweet and endearing, and she displays an innocence that somehow melds with her confidence to create a most wonderful portrayal. Physically, she moves in ways that make it seem gesture is a second language to her that she also speaks with an accent.
The power of his vocals only increases when Olivia Clari Nice joins him from the piano, singing with a voice that blends in a harmony full of haunting in their initial “Falling Softly.” The sensuous, searching pulls and tugs of her voice rise and fall in “If You Want Me” as her Girl and an echoing Guy both now imagine in song a possible love relationship. She seems to be searching for a sign that this is the man for her – she still being married to a husband now back in the Czech Republic and Guy still in deep hurt for an ex who is now in New York. When Girl sings “The Hill,” the individual words of the song often glide and slide in a single syllable in a flow conveying her searching for the answer to “Where are you my angel now?” Olivia Nice’s voice touches our hearts as her song takes on the tear-filled, voice-rippling sound one might expect to hear from a country-western singer’s love ballad. Both in voice and in acting, her Girl is another key reason this Once is ever-compelling during its entire two-hours, twenty minutes.
Mayer and Nice handle the “non-romantic leads” so perfectly that the final scenes radiate truth and bring a lump to your throat that is dissapated with the final scene to wrap up the show on a hopeful note.
The bulk of the evening rests on the sturdy shoulders of Corbin Mayer and Olivia Clari Nice, who deliver immensely appealing portraits of the two musicians who fall in love and slowly come to realize that tending to the responsibilities of their previous relationships is more important than consummating their current romance. Both artists have strong charisma, solid voices, and excel in their roles, with Ms. Nice adding a particularly dry and blunt kind of humor to the evening as “a very serious Czech.”
Olivia Clari Nice stars as Girl, the soulful, blunt-spoken Czech immigrant finding her feet in Dublin. She is supported by a strong ensemble cast and plays sweetly and seriously against Corbin Mayer's love-sick busker.