Paramount Theatre ONCE Review – An Atypical Love Story

Theater patrons line up waiting to grab a pre-show drink. We’re not at the lobby bar though. Theater goers stand against the far wall of the house to grab a drink from the onstage bar serving Harp Lager and Jameson whiskey. Some are still on stage as members of the cast join them onstage and begin playing as though we’re at their regular pub in Ireland. This is just the beginning to an intimate production of ONCE.

Paramount Theatre’s Love Story in Music

Most artists draw inspiration from their lives and our main character Guy is no exception. Dealing with a heartbreak of his now ex-girlfriend moving to New York, he’s written songs about his love and pain. When Girl hears him performing his songs, she realizes there’s something worth fighting for here.

With endless amounts of patience, prodding, and encouragement Girl pushes Guy to keep pursuing his music and along the way the two form an inexplicable bond through music.

Paramount Theatre ONCE
The cast of Once Photo: Liz Lauren
Paramount Theatre ONCE
Tiffany Topol and the cast of Once Photo: Liz Lauren

Capitalizing on Moments

Though ONCE has passed through Chicago a few times in the past few years, Paramount’s production still feels fresh. ONCE is about moments as we follow Girl and Guy’s budding relationship. We bounce from place to place and those moments feel accented more than other productions.

Aided by lighting and an intimate set, when there’s a moment shared by our two leads or there’s a emotional song being sung, everything else seems to fade away. Our focus is solely on what is happening right in front of us. We’re sucked into those moments until the spell is broken and we don’t even realize how enraptured we were.

Paramount Theatre ONCE
The cast of Once Photo:

Irish & Czech Cultures Collide

Two music styles emerge in the soundtrack of ONCE. We hear Irish folk/pop music inspiration with fiddles, acoustic guitars, and mandolins. Other times we’re treated to the Czech, bohemian style sounds with an accordions, violins, and tambourines. The best part about all this music is it’s played live on stage by the entire cast!

Girl played by Tiffany Topol stuns with her soulful and passionate renditions of “If You Want Me.” She steals every scene she’s in with her sharp wit and unending energy, all very serious because after all, “she’s Czech.”

Her Irish counterpart, Guy played by Barry Debois also packs an emotional punch with his raw vocals, especially in his opening number “Leave.” When they sing together it’s easy to see how music can make anyone fall in love.

Paramount Theatre ONCE
Cassidy Stirtz Photo: Liz Lauren

Altogether the music and the emotions behind the music are what make ONCE a gorgeous show. It may not be the best show for those looking for a fast moving musical. ONCE is a good pick for those who love acoustic music and nontraditional love stories.


Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.


Now through June 3, 2018
Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Thursday at 7 p.m.
Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.


Paramount Theatre
23 E Galena Blvd.
Aurora, IL 60506


For tickets, visit the Paramount website, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office.


Liz Lauren

Paramount Theatre ONCE
Tiffany Topol Photo: Liz Lauren


Barry DeBois

Tiffany Topol

Jeanne T. Arrigo

Jenn Chandler

Alex E. Hardaway

Nik Kmiecik

Angel Lin

Everleigh Murphy

Jon Patrick Penick

Cassidy Stirtz

Charlie Strater

Larry Tobias

Grant Alan Watkins

Elisa Carlson

Cory Goodrich

Matt Kahler

Michael Kurowski

Doug Pawlik

Matthew C. Yee


Jim Corti

Tom Vendafreddo

William Carlos Angulo

Jeff Kmiec

Theresa Ham

Nick Belley

Mike Tutaj

Adam Rosenthal

Katie Cordts

Amanda Relaford

Susan Gosdick

Klára Moldová

Trent Stork

Kory Danielson

Jinni Pike

Kelly Montgomery


Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago

Alexis Bugajski Photo: Liz Lin

About the Author

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

Share this:

Make a Comment

3 thoughts on “Paramount Theatre ONCE Review – An Atypical Love Story

  1. Hi – just a correction: The picture of the character “Reza”, the violinist, is captioned as Everleigh Murphy. That is incorrect. Everleigh is the little girl, Ivonka. The actress pictured is Cassidy Stirtz.

  2. Lovely review Alexis of an incredible production. Just wanted to submit a correction. Your photo caption of the character “Reza” (which is powerful and fits the character well) was played by Cassidy Stirtz. Everleigh Murphy was the little girl in the production.

  3. Thank you Catherine and Jeanne- -and apologies for the delay in making this correction. Our theater writer Alexis who penned this review is in NY now- among other things- scouting best Broadway plays to review…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *