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Once upon a barstool

Falling in love every night

The Dubliners of Once visit Olympia and Tacoma. Courtesy photo

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Few events in life are more tumultuous, more exhausting and elating than falling in love. That emotional tsunami is captured beautifully by writer-director John Carney's 2007 film Once, which finds a Dublin street musician in a "meet cute" and romance with a flower seller from Czechoslovakia. Imagine that experience eight times a week in eight new cities - plus eight new audiences, eight new concerts that cover the emotional spectrum. That's the "daily grind" for Barry DeBois, a touring actor in the stage version that opened five years ago in New York and won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2012.

"I cover Guy (the otherwise-unnamed male lead) and Emcee," explained DeBois, "so if somebody breaks their face, I jump in. I also am the music captain." Thus it's his job to keep the leads and other onstage musicians in line with the Broadway original - to a point. "The beauty of live theater is the reality of it, which is a room full of live people who are living in the same space as the people telling the story ... This show is different from most shows in that our creative team encourages us to see where the show lives that night ... Musically, we're encouraged to add a lick here or there or change it up. We're given the free rein to do that - which makes my job as music captain a bit more challenging and interesting, because it's not like, ‘No, that was different from last night so it's wrong.' It's more like, ‘Does that work with the music we're trying to play and the story we're trying to tell?'"

This isn't DeBois' first time on the road, so to speak, although his past roads were actually shipping lanes. "I saw some things I would've never seen had I not worked (as a performer) on a cruise ship. I saw the pyramids, I've seen every part of the Mediterranean ... There's certain downsides to it. You're living in a fairly confined space and it's a regimented life and you're kind of always ‘on,' because if you're out amongst the guests, you're ‘onstage' at all times ... It's cool now to have friends all over the world because of that."

In his spare time, DeBois is a burgeoning filmmaker. "Train Approaching is a film I started writing on my first cruise ship. It's about this ... shared experience among New Yorkers, where you see a person across from you on the train and have this little love affair in your mind with them." To watch that 11-minute story, visit

Meanwhile, the Once train rolls through western Washington, hitting four cities in four consecutive days. "It's a challenging vocal score for sure," said DeBois, "for guys especially." That includes early highlight "Falling Slowly," a soaring ballad that won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Once, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $58-$98, 360.753.8586; 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, $55-$129, 253.591.5894

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