Role Call: Meet the Cast of "Once"


by 
Tania Thompson
 | Aug 22, 2017

A handful of the 14 actors in the cast of Once has direct connections to the Broadway and national touring productions of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical—including one actor who originated the role of the Bank Manager on Broadway. Most of the cast are making their South Coast Repertory debuts; a few are familiar faces and two are students in SCR’s Theatre Conservatory. Altogether, this remarkable group of actors and musicians is poised to perform poignant and grabbing music on the Segerstrom Stage and create the world of Dublin’s pub and street music scenes. Read on to meet the cast.

Anthony,-ScottNAME: ​​Scott Anthony

My Once character is: Eamon.
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: The Christians, Love, Janis, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Aliens, Broadsword, Ring of Fire, The Jungle Book, The Normal Heart, First Kid Astronaut and The Stranger and Ludlow Quinn.
Eamon is: A guy who, after years behind the recording console, feels like he's aware of any musician in Dublin worth listening to, even if too much of his time is spent working with the ones who aren't. My Eamon is hanging on to reminders of his youth when he still had romantic views of music, and his lesson in not reading the proverbial book by its cover affords him a little hope and allows him to see the beauty of his present.
The instruments I play in the show are: Piano, guitar, harmonica, melodica, ukulele, mandolin and percussion. I love them all for different reasons, from the wide dynamic and tonal palette that the piano affords to the intimacy of touching strings and from breathing through reeds to the visceral punch of smacking a drum.
What I love most about Once is: In transferring Once from the screen to the stage, the intimacy of the love story wasn't sacrificed, and its ending wasn't changed. So to make it all big enough for the stage, the choice was made not to heighten, but to deepen. In my life, I deeply believe in the power of the families, whether the ones we're born into or the ones we choose, to support us and the ability of music to heal our souls and save our lives. This play speaks with a simple eloquence to both, and with an Irish lilt that would warm my grandfather's heart.
My biggest musical inspiration was: Prince—he was my biggest inspiration in becoming a musician and composer/songwriter. His willingness to challenge norms and traverse boundaries led me to a willingness to play all kinds of music with all kinds of people on all kinds of instruments, which has enriched my life immeasurably.
Am I binge-watching anything? I'm too damned busy learning all this music and dance and scene-changing, while trying to spend some time with my beloved, very understanding girlfriend to have time for any binge-watching at the moment. Although I made it through, and thoroughly enjoyed, “Glow” and the most recent season of "Master of None."

Jerry,-Amanda-LeighNAME: ​A​manda Leigh Jerry

My Once character is: Girl.
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Carousel and Mary Poppins, and on MTV’s series, “Sweet/Vicious.”
Girl is: A phenomenally strong and selfless person. She sees beauty everywhere, despite the heartbreak she had endured. Her first action in the play tells us so much about her; when Guy abandons his guitar in the street, she recognizes his despair. Instead of walking away and focusing on her own problems—and she has more than a few—she reaches out to him. She is driven by compassion and she sees the good in everyone she meets. Girl is a tree, planted firmly on the ground with her limbs stretched toward the sun, providing shelter for others and also, tragically, confined to her plot of earth.
The instrument I play in the show is: Piano. I grew up playing the guitar and, though I took piano in high school (with a shout-out to Rick Zelle, the kindest and most patient piano teacher on Earth)—it was definitely a challenge for me to prepare musically for Once. It has been such a joy to exercise those muscles again, and I feel really grateful for this opportunity to grow as a musician.
What I love most about Once is: Almost everything! One feature in particular that I have really enjoyed discovering through our rehearsal process is the compound nature of the show. Once exists in multiple worlds simultaneously—fictional Dublin, of course, and the world of the characters, but also in our reality as actors relating to one another, and our reality as musicians playing together. I can't think of another show with layers of interaction that are so complex and thrilling to navigate, as both a performer and an audience member!
Most recently, my favorite bands are: Sufjan Stevens, Chance the Rapper, Jacob Collier and whatever is on my Spotify Discover Weekly.
What I’m binge-watching: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”—I'm completely addicted! Drag is such an incredible art form and the show itself is wonderfully positive. It really inspires me and it makes me smile, too!

Mongiardo-Cooper,-NicholasNAME: Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper

My Once character is: Billy.
My previous SCR credits include: I’m excited that Once is my Segerstrom Stage debut. I’ve been in nine Theatre for Young Audiences productions including Lucky Duck, The Borrowers and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
My other credits include: Rothschild and Sons, Lonesome Traveler, Julius Caesar, Three Days of Rain, SubUrbia, A Midsummer NIght’s Dream, Side by Side by Sondheim, Words by: Ira Gershwin and the Great American Songbook, “Fuller House” and “Superstore.”
Billy is: A bull in a music shop! He’s a self-important and very loving bear.
The instruments I play in the show are: Guitar, cajon, tambourine, ukulele and cymbals.
What I like about playing guitar: It’s one of the ultimate songwriter’s instruments (the other being piano). Guitar is something you can play portably, so it's both practical and ultimately intimate because it's cradled by its user.
What I love most about Once is: The sense of music and connection in this musical, because each is something cosmic and something crafted. I see relationships and art as things that must be learned, worked for, cared for and practiced and, yet, there is undoubtedly an element of magic in both.
My favorite band is: The Beatles—for me, no one will ever eclipse their transcendent influence.
What I’m binge-watching: “Twin Peaks”—I love the mind of David Lynch! His viewpoint is exceedingly magical and, for someone who creates such dark subject matter, he maintains an oddly optimistic view.

Nee,-AlexNAME: ​​​Alex Nee

My Once character is: Andrej.
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Once (first national tour); Green Day’s American Idiot, Love is a Battlefield, Vol. 2 and Beauty and the Beast.
Andrej is: An excitable dreamer with some lessons to learn about failure.
The instruments I play in the show are: Guitar, ukulele, bass, mandolin and cajon. Oh and tambourine, but doesn't everyone basically play the tambourine? I absolutely love how much we're able to swap instruments in this show. I feel like I get to use different voices for each song and each individual instrument gives me a different relationship to the rest of the band. If you want to use a sports metaphor, the bass feels like defense, cajon is the coach and the guitar gets to hype things up a little more.
What I love most about Once is: The music. I've felt deeply connected to the music of Once since I first saw the movie 10 years ago, then saw it on Broadway, then performed in it on tour, all the way to now. This music has only grown on me, and considering how many thousands of times I've heard these songs, by now it's a pretty deep love - every note feels like a warm, familiar hug.
My favorite band is: Bon Iver has carried me off to sleep too many nights for them to not be my favorite band. The way they layer and highlight instruments and melodic lines is absolutely unique. They're so emotional, I can physically feel the songs.
What I’m binge-watching: "Billions" and "Ozark." I was an economics minor in college, and more and more, I'm shocked and appalled by modern capitalism. These shows both dive into the dark depths of our relationship to money. Needless to say, it's not very uplifting.

Pedersen,-ChristianNAME: ​​Christian Pederson

My Once character is: Emcee
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Cloud 9, Clybourne Park, Mouse Trap, Flare Path and The 39 Steps. On television, they include “The Good Wife,” “Damages,” “Fringe” and “Royal Pains.”
Emcee in Once runs: The Dublin Live Mic, likes a good pint, a good joke and will always join in for a song.
The instrument I play in the show is: Acoustic guitar. I love the versatility of the guitar—an endless number of feelings can be expressed through strumming or picking this box of wood with six strings wound over it.
What I love most about Once are: The characters are loveable, funny, and they will break your heart...and then there is the music! It is simply phenomenal.
I have a few top-contenders for my favorite band: The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, David Bowie and Steely Dan.
What I’m binge-watching: I've been slowly working my way through the new "Twin Peaks," season 3. And, of course, there is "Game of Thrones." “Dracarys!”

Sailors,-Rustin-ColeNAME: ​​​Rustin Cole Sailors

My Once character is: Guy
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, For the Record: The Brat Pack, Rock of Ages, Spring Awakening, Hair, Rent and Les Miserables.
Guy is: From Dublin and he’s settled into a slow-going life. He’s living with his father above a vacuum repair shop and busking on the streets in an attempt to make a little extra money and to have an artistic outlet. Guy is a deep-feeling, charismatic songwriter stuck in a rut. He is often so concerned with the happiness of others that he inadvertently overlooks his own happiness and needs and I think he often struggles with the idea that he deserves the opportunity to pursue his own wants and desires.
The instrument I play in the show is: Guitar.
What I like about the guitar is: I love having an instrument that I can carry everywhere I go. I love how versatile an instrument the guitar is—you can change strumming patterns, picking patterns or chords among many other intricacies and, all of a sudden, be in an entirely different style or era. It's a creative playground.
What I love most about Once is: Well, I'm Irish and a songwriter, so I see so much of myself in this character and this show. From the sense of community and culture that feed artistic expression to spontaneous acts of kindness, this show mirrors much of what I've experienced in my personal life and my upbringing.
My favorite band is: I can frequently be found flip-flopping between John Mayer and, by contrast, the easy-listening sound of Breaking Benjamin.
What I’m binge-watching: “Bobs Burgers” (re-bingeing, actually) and a show called “Gravity Falls.” I can't get enough of these quirky characters.

Schon,-MarninaNAME: ​​​Marnina Schon

My Once character is: Ex-Girlfriend.
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Brundibar, Desire Under the Elms, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Fiddler on the Roof, The Drowsy Chaperone and Spring Awakening. I also perform with the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Ex-Girlfriend: Has been Guy’s muse for years, so you know she's something special; but she had to move to New York to break out of the stagnation of her life in Dublin. She's in a lonely place when we catch up to her, but she's still brave for realizing that she can't survive on the love of just one person and forging her own path.
The instrument I play in the show: The violin (but I also get a fun little cajon part). As soon as my big brother started learning violin, I demanded to get lessons, too. I feel very lucky that the instrument I picked up at age four is part of a real smorgasbord of genres that I get to dabble in now, including the Irish and Czech folk songs that we play before the show.
What I like about playing an instrument: My favorite thing about violin, if I'm being 100 percent honest, is sliding around on the fingerboard. No frets, baby!
What I love most about Once is: Among a hundred other reasons that I'm finding every day in rehearsal, I love this show because it perfectly captures the power of music to connect people. The songs in the show come from a deeply personal place, but making it and experiencing it pulls people together in the purest, most basely human way. And when people come to see Once, they're going to be part of that journey. I can't wait.
My favorite band is: Right now, it’s our Once band. I have been listening to them eight hours a day with no sign of ever getting sick of them, so that has to count for something. Ha! Really though, I'm constantly bowled over by the musicianship of this group. But, really, you’re asking me to publicly declare my love for just one band?!
What I’m binge-watching: ​"Glow" on Netflix—right before rehearsals started, I watched all of the episodes. It's insanely fun and the acting is downright gripping. Plus, I can't remember yelling and throwing my fist in the air during any other season finale.

Spound,-ZachNAME: ​​​​Zach Spound

My Once character is: Svec
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Floyd Collins, Murder for Two, A Class Act, Othello, Love’s Labour’s Lost and La Ronde. I also music-directed Cruel Intentions: The Musical.
Svec is: One of the Czech characters in the play, an immigrant living in Dublin with his friends and family. He's a lovable oddball—the Garth to Andrej's Wayne, and the Kramer to Reza's Elaine. He yearns to be accepted as a local, impressing his Irish friends and bonding with them through his obsession with the popular soap opera, "Fair City." He learned English by watching the show and can probably quote full episodes. He has a knack for pushing people's buttons, doesn't take life too seriously and has a full-blown caffeine addiction.
The instruments I play in the show are: Guitar, mandolin, banjo and drums. I love playing drums because of its capacity for noise. My main instruments are piano and guitar, and I always love to play them really loudly, but the truth is that on string instruments there's a bit of a ceiling of how loud you can get (unless you have an amplifier). Drums allow me to blow that ceiling open and play like I've always wanted to play until our music director tells me to play softer. I like noise.
I saw Once on Broadway shortly after it opened: It absolutely blew my mind. It felt like a new genre of storytelling had been created. Just earth-shattering. I grew up steeped in rock, folk and musical theatre and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a piece that so effortlessly combines them all. I am a big believer in the healing power of music, and the beautiful communities it forms. This play is a testament to those communities, and to the artists who never stop chasing the dream, chasing the song—no matter the cost.
My favorite band is: The Who.
What I’m binge-watching: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

Stirtz,-CassidyNAME: ​Cassidy Stirtz

My Once character is: Reza.
My previous SCR credits: This is my SCR debut.
My other credits include: Once (the first national tour), Cyrano de Bergerac, Much Ado About Nothing and Pride and Prejudice.
Reza is: She’s a fierce Czech powerhouse. Reza is a woman who has had to fend for herself but, despite her hardships, believes life can and will be full of joy and music.
The instruments I play in the show are: Mostly the violin, as well as cajon and tambourine. In real life, I also play viola, mandolin, steel pan, piano and some other percussion instruments.
What I like about playing an instrument: I have a soft spot for just about every instrument. My parents taught me piano. Viola has such a gorgeous sound. Violin parts are so showy and fun. Mandolin is what I use to write songs. And percussion? Sometimes it's just fun to hit stuff!
What I love most about Once is: That it’s such a gorgeous show. It's a love story that doesn't have a traditional happy ending; it's about broken families, broke musicians and resilient immigrants. Beautiful music ties the story together and it changes everyone.
My favorite band is: Too tough to choose, but lately I've been listening to Peter Gabriel, Punch Brothers, Kesha, and Anthony Hamilton in equal measure, so take your pick.
What I’m binge-watching: The most popular HBO show (hint: "Game of Thrones"). I just started, so if you spoil anything for me, I will end you!

Taylor,-AndyNAME: ​​Andy Taylor

My character in Once: Bank Manager.
Previously at SCR: Beyond Therapy.
My other credits include: J.H. Rodgers in Titanic and Howard, the goofy weatherman, in Moon Over Buffalo with Carol Burnett, On the 20th Century, The Producers and Cabaret (both national tours) and Sunset Boulevard. My television credits include “Elementary,” “CSI,” “Law & Order,” and the films Collateral Beauty and The Week Of...
The Bank Manager is: A role I created for the Broadway production and the only reason the character is a cellist is because I’m a cellist! I also wrote the Bank Manager’s goofy song for the Broadway show.
The instrument I play most in Once is: Cello and some other instruments. I am also the show’s music director.
Why I love Once: It’s so uplifting and the music that this ‘ragtag’ group of musicians performs will just blow everyone away. We’re all going to be transformed through the power of music.

Vann, Diane KingNAME: ​​​Diane King Vann

My Once character is: Baruska.
My previous SCR credits include: Good, Side by Side by Sondheim, Marry Me a Little and Tomfoolery.
My other credits include: Naughty Marietta, White as Snow and Gypsy. 3-D Theatricals, Laguna Playhouse (Forever Plaid) and Music Theatre West.
Baruska is: A bigger than life woman. She is forceful, funny, (​though always “serious” because she is Czech!) and deeply loves and cares about her daughter and granddaughter. She sees her daughter struggling NOT to fall in love, and wants her happiness​…even if it means leaving her husband. Baruska, is strong. She’s a survivor. She has lived through her own husband’s suicide and moving from Czechoslovakia to Ireland.
The instrument(s) I play in the show is: The accordion, but also a little bit of melodica and piano.
What I like about the accordion is: That it is brand new! I had to learn how to play it for this show, and it’s a new phenomenon for me! The fun part is getting something finally in my fingers, and then starting to have fun with it. It’s portable (much more so than a piano!) and that makes it easily accessible. Hmmm...there may be a career twist ahead for me on this instrument!
What I love most about Once is: The beautiful story of how music brings all these people together, and heals broken hearts, makes new friendships, inspires people to dream big and collectively makes us fall in love.
My favorite band is: Well, we’re going back in time now, but it’s Chicago.
What I’m binge-watching: Not much right now with rehearsals, but before that it was “Jane the Virgin” and “Madame Secretary.” I recently watched all of “The West Wing” again and am also a big fan of “Father Brown” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

Waara, ScottNAME: ​​​​Scott Waara

Once Character: Da.
Previously at SCR: The Education of Randy Newman and The Fantasticks (2013).
Other credits: Once (first national tour), Most Happy Fella (Broadway) and in the original casts for City of Angels, Welcome to the Club and The Wind in the Willows. Regionally, his credits include Mack and Mabel, Candide, They’re Playing Our Song, Sweeney Todd and Big River. His television and film credits include “NCIS,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Numb3rs,” “Without a Trace,” The Least Among You and Beethoven’s 2nd.

NAME: ​​​​​Aoife Mc​Evoy

In Once, my character is: Ivonka (I share this role with Jacqueline Vellandi)
At SCR:
I’m a Theatre Conservatory student.
What I like about taking acting classes here:
So many things! I like the skills classes have taught me like how to think on my feet and confidence and I like how much it has taught me about the technique of acting and how to be professional.
My SCR theatre credits include:
A Christmas Carol (twice!) and Conservatory Players productions of Into the Woods, Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast (Summer Players), as well as Gossamer (Junior Players).
Ivonka is:
Shy, but enjoys meeting new people. She loves her family very much and likes to sing and dance to Czech songs because they remind her of home. She’s dependent on her mother and never knew her father, however, she would like to meet him. She has a special bond with her grandmother and is very close with her and Ivonka enjoys singing and talking with her family.
The most fun thing about Once is: Getting to dance and be with the adult actors and learn from them.
My favorite band is:
Coldplay

NAME: ​​​​Jacqueline Vellandi

In Once, my character is: Ivonka (I share this role with Aoife McAvoy)
At SCR: I’m a Theatre Conservatory student and have been taking classes at SCR since the summer of third grade.
What I like about taking acting classes here: The people I get to work with and learn from – students and teachers. Everyone is so supportive and still willing to push us to do our best and be our best. In the Summer Players’ shows, I get to work with kids who are in college and have studied at SCR all their lives; they are such role models for me not just as actors but also as people.
My SCR theatre credits include: A Christmas Carol and Conservatory Players productions of Gossamer (Junior Players) and Beauty and the Beast and Into the Woods (Summer Players).
Ivonka is: Very proud of her culture and enjoys the Czech influence that surrounds her. She loves music and is glad she grew up singing with a family.
The instruments I play: Ivonka doesn’t play an instrument, but: I play piano, ukulele and guitar. For me, that’s part of what makes being in this show so special – seeing the actors as musicians. I want to play, too!
The most fun thing about Once is: The music! It’s incredible that just these 14 people can come together and make such beautiful music.
My favorite bands are: The Beatles, Zac Brown Band and One Direction. But I love all kinds of music​—jazz, rock, country, classical.

Learn more and buy tickets to Once.