On the sixth of May, a sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon on Stolp Island, cars are slowing down at the Galena Boulevard crosswalks for the processional of theater patrons ambling their way along The Fox to attend the 1:00 Matinee of Paramount Theatre’s new production of Once. Entering the riverbank promenade from our North Island Center garage, a small waterfall of river flows, its sound rushes and glistens. A blue sky above, a moment of stillness: pause, tilt my head to the sun. Then its “Thank you, Herc!” to Hercle Brown, our crossing guard, and in a few feet, I’m holding one of the solid steel and glass front doors for a stream of folks as they walk in with “thank you!” and “don’t get stuck holding that!” “It’s ok! I work here!” And laughs go up!

The din in the Grand Gallery buzzes and bubbles with crowd voices popping, ricocheting off the walls three stories high. It all shares the excitement and anticipation of my being back having last seen the show a week ago after an astonishing opening weekend! Audience members are onstage buying whiskey and beer provided right on the set, and my pulse quickens as our company of actor/musicians join them with a rally of old Irish folk songs. The crowd cheers their footstomping finale, lights ablaze, as Barry DeBois walks to center stage suddenly silhouetted. He brings a mood swing, a new sound. Contemporary, brooding, pure. I’m blown away. Tiffany Topol appears from the shadows, and between them sparks fly.

As the audience sees them falling for each other, the crowd is falling for them. In an instant.


Topol and DeBois are stunningly leading this gifted, golden company through a musically refined, uniquely mature and compelling story about writing songs and making music. The week since opening has grounded them more nuanced and richer reaching new heights. My head fills up, spins with this cast’s brilliance and that of Tom Vendafreddo’s music direction and William Carlos Angulo’s choreography, Theresa Ham’s costumes and Nick Belley’s light design on the Jeff Kmiec set. I wish they were sitting here next to me seeing what I’m seeing.

I wish this magnificent company could somehow see themselves up there.


I hope they would love it! But they are here for you and me, dear reader. Don’t miss them. Until June 3, critics and audiences are having an unforgettably beautiful time in the theater in Downtown Aurora on the riverbanks of The Fox.           

Love & thanks,



Once closes June 3. Don’t miss it!

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