PEMBROKE — Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, an actress and trained musician from New York, always hoped to land a gig that would combine her two talents.
She found her “dream role” in “Once,” a stage musical adapted from the Oscar-winning movie of the same name.
“I saw the show for the first time when I was 16 years old,” she said. “I loved it so much I went back and saw it a second time.”
Lesser-Roy was cast in a touring production of “Once” after she auditioned last year “on a whim.” The show will bring her to Pembroke for a May 3 performance at Givens Performing Arts Center.
“It’s one of those unique musicals whose story and music resonates with people of all ages,” said Chad Locklear, the venue’s marketing director. “The actors are musicians who perform all of their own instruments onstage, and the story is very touching and draws you right in.”
Lesser-Roy stars as a Czech musician, identified only as “girl,” who meets an Irish songwriter in Dublin. Their romance blossoms through the soaring folk tunes they write together.
“Playing music and doing theater has always gone hand-in-hand for me,” said Lesser-Roy, a pianist and cello player whose previous credits include “Grease,” “Oklahoma!” and “Sweeney Todd.”
Life on the road didn’t come as naturally.
“It’s a pretty unique experience,” she said. “One of the coolest things about it is that we get to travel and see different cities every week. That’s also one of the hardest parts of it, because it’s exhausting. You have to put so much out there and it’s tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Lesser-Roy says she’s grown “extremely close” with her cast mates since the tour kicked off.
“I think we’re all going to be friends for a very long time,” she said. “We’re all musicians and we all get along really well because we understand music in a different way. We spend pretty much every day together.”
Written by John Carney, the 2007 movie was shot in 17 days on a $150,000 budget. “Once” became an audience favorite at Sundance and was bought for $500,000 by Fox Searchlight Pictures. It went on to gross more than $20 million at the box office and picked up an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The stage musical made its Broadway debut in 2012 and has won eight Tony Awards. According to Lesser-Roy, the stage version doesn’t simply hit the same notes as the film.
“There’s a level of comparison,” she said. “People think they’re going to get the same thing as the original. But when they get something different from what they expected, they’re not disappointed. Come see the show with a totally open mind and a totally open heart, and it will be an experience to remember for a long time.”
Givens Performing Arts Center is located on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “Once” is part of the venue’s Broadway and More Series and will be its final show of the season.
The cast will hold an on-stage jam session before the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $26 to $41. Tickets are $16 for members of the university’s faculty and for non-UNCP students. The discounted price for UNCP is $10. For information, call 910-521-6361 or visit uncp.edu.
Features editor Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at [email protected]