- - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The multiple Tony Award-winning musical “Once” tells the story of Guy, an Irish busker, who is encouraged by Girl, a Czech pianist, to pursue his dream of a musical career.

Based on a 2007 film, the musical runs in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater through mid-August, with a cast of exceptional actor/musicians who provide the live music on stage in place of a band in the pit or a track.

Scott Waara, a veteran of Broadway and the 1992 Tony Award winner for best featured actor as Herman in “The Most Happy Fella,” is thrilled to return to Washington, where he has appeared often at Ford’s Theatre and other area venues. He feels especially close to his character, Da, the father of Guy, who reminds him of the father he recently lost, a former school principal in suburban Chicago.

“Da doesn’t understand his son, who is a musician,” he told The Washington Times. “It’s the universal position parents have when their children are emotional about dreams that conflict with ordinary life,” which is something he experienced with his own father, he said.

The actors onstage perform Irish and Czech songs in a circle.

“The music is accessible to everyone,” Mr. Waara said. “Several other shows I’ve been in have required the actors to play instruments, and it’s always a thrill to see actors who can do more than one thing.”

Mr. Waara began studying the guitar at age 10 and subsequently learned the banjo, bass and other string instruments. He even worked for a time with a guitar amplifier company, but could not resist the pull of the theater. In “Once,” he plays the mandolin, guitar and banjo.

Since joining the tour last year, Mr. Waara made his first visit to Tokyo and performed in his hometown of Chicago for the first time.

The most poignant stop, however, was Ottawa. A day after the tour arrived, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was killed as he stood guard at the Canadian National War Memorial.

“The theater was right across the street,” Mr. Waara recalled. “Of course, we canceled the show, and at the next matinee, Donna Garner, a cast member and native of Canada, made a speech. When she finished, the audience sang ‘O Canada.’ It was chilling. We then passed the hat [around] for his family.

“Later, Donna’s brother gave us a tour of Parliament, where he is a member, and we sang while they were repairing the bullet holes.”

A resident of Los Angeles for the past 20 years, Mr. Waara feels fortunate to have moved easily among stage, film and television (“Numb3rs,” “CSI: Miami,” “Without a Trace”).

“Theater at its best creates community and brings people together,” he said. “‘Once’ is funny, rich and moving, with beautiful music. Our audiences are rapt. You can hear the proverbial pin drop. At the end, everyone leaves satisfied with having had a great experience.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: “Once,” the Tony Award-winning musical

WHERE:Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20566

WHEN: Through Aug. 16; Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.

INFO: Tickets from $65 by calling 202/467-4600, 800/444-1324 or visiting Kennedy-Center.org

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