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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Romantic musical ‘Once’ in Tampa for Valentine’s Day week

An acclaimed romantic musical arrives in Tampa in time for Valentine’s Day.

“I expect there will be a lot of couples in the audience that night,” says actor Stuart Ward, who co-stars in “Once,” a story of lost love and new possibilities opening Feb. 11 at the Straz Center. The play runs through Feb. 16.

This is not the typical guy-meets-girl story with a fairy-tale ending, says Liverpool-born actor Stuart Ward, who co-stars as a heartbroken, down-on-his-luck Irish singer, known only as The Guy.

“Some see it as a romance, others see a tragedy, but it certainly is realistic,” says Ward, who is also a singer/songwriter.

The Girl that comes into the Guy’s life is portrayed by Dani de Waal, also on her first national tour. Her character is an endearing, resourceful Czech immigrant who helps turn The Guy’s life around.

Set entirely in an Irish pub, the play begins with The Guy as a struggling street musician who has lost his girlfriend and his dream of becoming a success.

A flower shop girl who also loves music befriends him and manages to get him to continue to pursue the dream.

The play won eight Tony awards in 2012, including best musical and Best Actor, as well as for orchestrations, scenic design, directing, book, sound design and lighting.

The 2006 independent film was a financial and critical success but it didn’t get a lot of attention at the U.S. box office. It won an Oscar for “Falling Slowly” as the Best Original Song, and the soundtrack got a Grammy nomination.

The movie and play have more than a dozen original songs written by singer/songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (who played The Guy and The Girl in the film).

“This is the perfect role for me,” says Ward. 30, who grew up playing music. “I’m from Liverpool, and we share that same kind of Irish culture of music and pubs.”

He says de Waal is also from England and they get on very well. “She’s been here a year before so she has taken me in hand and helped me adapt to the cultural differences here,” he says. “And she’s great in the part.”

Ward says he remains a big fan of the movie. He describes his character as a broken man.

“He has had a lot of trouble in his life,” he says. “His girlfriend has left and his mother has died. He’s frustrated because his career isn’t going anywhere. He has lost his passion. I know how he feels. I know what its like to be on the verge of something but it doesn’t happen. I know what it is like to be broke and in debt.”

Ward adds that he also identifies with the character’s way of expressing himself through music. “Whatever is inside me can come out in the songs I write,” he says.

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