Review: CVRep’s ‘Once,’ a non-traditional musical, is the flawless performance this valley stage deserves

It’s as if the Los Angeles Philharmonic suddenly transformed into the energetic cast of “Fame” with Irish brogues and Czech accents.


My wife turned to me midway through the first act of “Once” last Thursday at the Coachella Valley Repertory and said, “Finally, a musical worthy of this theater.”

That’s not a stretch, based on how many musicals have been produced in the converted IMAX theater since the CVRep moved in in 2019. Its last show, the delightful “Dirty Blonde,” was a play with music. CVRep’s only previous big musical, “Chess,” was beleaguered, at best.

But Jane’s point reflects what many people I spoke to were thinking. CVRep has produced some great plays in that building. But what distinguishes it from other desert facilities is the size of its stage, the intimacy of its house and the sophistication of its technology. I’ve seen great plays in a trailer. But the true test of a theater is its ability to do musicals. And this non-traditional musical delivers.

Adam Karsten’s direction of “Once” is the realization of the CVRep dream.

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Coachella Valley Repertory

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