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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 9 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 19
That girl from Once: An interview with Dani de Waal
Arts & Entertainment
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That girl from Once: An interview with Dani de Waal

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

ONCE, THE MUSICAL
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
May 27-June 8


Dani de Waal is no stranger to hard work. She understudied off Broadway in the classic Picnic and appeared on the silver screen in the film, Non-Stop. Currently, she is currently playing 'Girl' in the touring company of the hit musical, Once. Playing for two weeks at the Paramount Theatre, the Seattle Gay News caught up with this busy actress.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Dani De Waal: I think my first musical theater people [that I remember listening to] were Linda Eder, Bernadette Peters and Sutton Foster. I love Sutton - still do! They were the stage people that I knew of, and got their albums and used to sing along to.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first professional show you ever saw?

De Waal: My first show was Cats in London. I remember we were on a family trip and my parents told us we were going to do something with animals. My sister and I thought we were going to the zoo, but we saw Cats. I remember being amazed by it and that was definitely the moment I got bitten by 'The Bug.'

Andrews-Katz: What was your acting history like in London?

De Waal: I was only in the London Theater for about a year. I graduated Drama School in 2011, and did Mamma Mia for a year. I moved to New York right after that.

Andrews-Katz: Your first Broadway show was William Inge's Picnic. How did the audition come about?

De Waal: I moved to New York in September 2012. I had an agent and auditioned for the show. It wasn't too much of a grueling process. I had two rounds of auditions and covered three different parts. Two of them were the Owens sisters. I never actually went on stage, but it was a wonderful experience, especially since I just moved to New York two months before. It was great to get a good feel for the city. There were fantastic people in that cast.

Andrews-Katz: Once was originally a hit film. The stage musical won several Tony Awards. What do you think is the universal appeal of this independent film?

De Waal: I think its beauty lies in its simplicity. It's about Music and Love; love of music and of people. It's something people can relate to. The two main characters are from different places, and the love of music brings them together. The show covers topics and themes that audiences can empathize with as it holds up a mirror and makes them reflect about their own lives and choices. [The show's] about not fulfilling dreams and covers huge questions that everyone asks about themselves and the world around them.

Andrews-Katz: Were you familiar with the movie Once before auditioning for the musical?

De Waal: Yes, I was. I saw the movie when it first came out, and loved it. I thought it was very different, so raw and real. I saw the musical in New York when I came over for holiday, and was amazed at how they stayed true [to the original] and didn't make it some flashy type of Broadway show. It had new elements definitely, and I have been a fan from the beginning.

Andrews-Katz: In the musical, both your character and 'Guy' play your own instruments. How long have you been playing piano?

De Waal: I've been playing piano since I was about six or seven years old. I played all through school, but when you leave home and leave school, and you don't have a piano around anymore, it falls away quite a bit. This show has definitely tapped into that for me again, and I want to keep up with it once the show is finished. It reminded me how much I loved playing.

Andrews-Katz: Do you find it easier or more of a challenge to play your own accompaniment while in character?

De Waal: When I first started, I thought, 'How the hell am I going to do this?' There was so much to focus on, but it's developed. I thought it may take away from my action to be playing the piano correctly, but it wasn't like that. Now I love it, as you have control over what you're doing. Everyone on stage is playing and paying attention to one another, because there is no conductor for us there. It's a stronger connection if everyone is looking out for one another, listening to each other. I love it and it definitely adds something to the performance when you can accompany yourself instead of by someone else.

Andrews-Katz: Is Once considered a love story?

De Waal: Yes, I think it is! But not in the traditional, fairy-tale ending kind of love story. It appeals to people because in life, love is complicated. For these characters, they are in the right place at the right time, and it's not necessarily about romance. It's about love coming into people's lives and how that works out. It's a modern day love story because life is complicated.

Andrews-Katz: You've performed in musicals and dramas on stage and also on the big screen. Which do you prefer and why?

De Waal: I've only had minimal screen experience. I had a small part in Non-Stop, but I'm really much more comfortable on stage. I would love to do more screen experiences, and hope to get into it after this in the future. It is a different animal and there is enjoyable stuff in both worlds. But my heart is on stage, and that's what I grew up with.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of any limitations - which would it be and why?

De Waal: It would be kind of funny to answer, but if I'm being honest, it's the role that isn't written yet. I would love to originate a role. I would love to start a role in workshop, and take it through the stages until we got to Broadway. It's my dream to originate and create a role myself.

Once is based on the hit, 2006 independent film of the same name. The movie's composer and lyricist team, Glen Hansard and Markéta Ifglová, use music from the movie throughout the musical, as well as added songs. The stage musical was nominated for eleven 2012 Tony Awards, winning eight including Best Musical.

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That girl from Once: An interview with Dani de Waal
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