Winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards including best musical, “Once” is a poignant musical stage adaptation based on the 2006 movie that shares the same name. The minimalist set-a Dublin pub-hosts the musicians who play the guitar, piano, as well as mandolin, violin, ukulele and accordion throughout the show.
In this beautiful ode to lost love, an ensemble of actor/musicians tell the enchanting tale of a Dublin street musician who’s about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. As the chemistry between them grows, his music soars to new heights, but their unlikely connection turns out to be deeper and more complex than your everyday romance. “Once” draws you in from the first note and never lets go. It’s an unforgettable story about going for your dreams, not living in fear and the power of music to connect all of us.
Amarillo native Erica Swindell plays Reza, the Czechoslavakian friend of the character named ‘Girl’ in the show. A violinist since age three, Swindell is at home with her instrument on stage. She sees “Once” as a story about love and rebirth and is proud to be part of this unique Broadway production.
I started doing theater in high school through my school and got addicted very quickly. I sought out classes at the local community theatre and college programs in my hometown and even found myself in a couple of local operas. By the time I was looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to go to school for Acting and put my music pursuits on pause for a while. I only applied to schools in New York because it was just where I knew I wanted to be while I was training. I went to Marymount Manhattan College and earned my BFA in Acting and minored in Musical Theatre. After school I did a few regional and off-Broadway gigs before landing my Broadway debut in ONCE in January of 2013.
How is the musical stage performance different from the film?
The musical adaptation takes the spirit of the movie and expands it to fit inside larger houses. There are several characters that you will meet in the stage production that you only see glimpses of in the background of the film, which is exciting. Also, the music is all live and the movement work that Steven Hoggett created for the show in perfect harmony with the direction of John Tiffany and brilliant musical direction and arrangements by Martin Lowe creates a seamless and surprisingly epic work of art. I think when people who are fans of the movie come to see the show they are happily surprised. It’s sort of a blank canvas. There is a story for everyone in it whether it be love between a man and a woman, a daughter and mother, a son and father, or immigrants in a new country. There is love to be experienced there.
What is your favorite scene in the play?
My favorite scene in the play is actually a movement sequence created by Hoggett and Tiffany during the song “Sleeping.” It gives a deeper glimpse into the lives of the Czech immigrants in the show and the difficulty that they may have experienced being away from their home. The piece is all based on deconstructed embraces. When I first saw the show on Broadway before I was a company member, this was the piece that followed me around in my head for months. Heartbreaking, warm and hollow all at the same time. Just beautiful.
What is your character like?
Réza is most importantly a survivor. I’ve enjoyed so much being able to stand in her shoes. She is the housemate and fiercely protective friend of Girl. Her journey has been long and mostly alone. There is nothing she will not do for those she decides to take in as her family members. She functionally plays violin in the show and also does some colorful dancing from time to time. I’ve most found her to be a chameleon, always ready to shift colors when necessary and never leaving regret behind.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Performing has always been the greatest love of my life, equal only to my amazing family. I’ve been very fortunate to have built-in best friends my whole life in my four siblings and parents who are extremely supportive of my career.
Where would you most like to live?
New York City!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement was making my Broadway debut with “Once” last year. It was always my dream to be a part of a Broadway show, and I’ll never forget that first curtain call at the Jacobs Theatre.
What is your current state of mind?
Currently, I am feeling hopeful and excited about the future.
“Once” runs in the following Texas theaters:
By Autumn Rhea Carpenter and Elaine Krackau
Images courtesy ONCE Tour Company © Joan Marcus