I’ve tried to get reasonably-priced tickets to Once twice in the last few weeks and have ended up empty handed both times. Now that the musical has received eleven Tony nominations I guess I can look forward to the tickets skyrocketing even higher.
But that aside, one of the most startling achievements of Once is that its female lead, Cristin Milioti, has been nominated for the Tony for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical… and it’s her first musical she has ever appeared in! She talks about how she got the role and how she developed her character’s Czech accent to Rolling Stone.
Milioti admits that not only did she not initially land the lead female role, but she didn’t even know how to really play the piano very well! She says, “I auditioned for this back when it was going to be a reading. I auditioned for the Girl, but the part had already been cast before the audition had even been held so I ended up playing Réza, the Girl’s flat mate. We did the reading, and then a day or two later the director called and said that he wanted me to come in and audition for the Girl again for everyone, and he really pushed for me the entire time. I was deemed not a good enough piano player. I can’t sight read, and I’ve never taken piano lessons – I only know chords. I could play you a C chord and a G chord and kind of make it look like I kind of knew what I was doing, but that was about it. So they gave me ten days to learn two songs on the piano, and I did. I came in and I played ‘The Hill,’ and I got it.”
One of Milioti’s challenges was developing a Czech accent for her character. Luckily, Milioti enjoys working on dialects and accents, and reveals, “I came up with my own thing when we did this workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There was a student there who was from the Czech Republic, from Prague, and I got to hang out with him for an hour. That was so helpful. We had a dialect coach here, but I would say like 99 percent of the work I’ve done has all been like dialects and voices, so I love that stuff and I’m very lucky that it comes easily. It’s like writing a song or something, just learning the different kinds of melody.”