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Once Tells the Story of a Dublin Street Musician's Dreams and the Woman Who Inspires Him

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Winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards including Best Musical, Once tells the story of a Dublin street musician, "Guy," who thanks to the help of a beautiful woman, "Girl," decides to continue pursuing his career in music.

John Steven Gardner, who plays Eamon, a sound engineer at a recording studio, in the touring production coming to the Hobby Center courtesy of Broadway Across America, also serves as the "Music Captain" for the show.

"It's to help keep what we did in rehearsal in August 2013 intact. Once gives all of the actors an unusual amount of creative freedom. A lot of the parts we came up with in rehearsals."

Gardner keeps them grounded, sending the actors notes when their spontaneity goes too far afield as well as introducing new cast members to the basic premise of the musical, which is heavy on singing (including "Falling Slowly" which won the Academy Award in an earlier movie version of the story), dancing and actor-musicians playing instruments onstage.

Gardner, who grew up in Virginia near Washington D.C. and graduated from Ithaca College in New York, is the son of an opera-singing mother and a father who plays a number of instruments with an interest in folk and bluegrass.

He promises that Once will appeal to people who normally don't like musicals, saying it drops any rose-colored lenses in favor of embracing real life.

Performances of Once are scheduled for March 10-15 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For information visit thehobbycenter.org or call 713-315-2525. $30-$115 .

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