By Harvey Barkin | FilAm Star EIC
Bryan Munar, 24, is a UC Berkeley alumnus who makes his debut as Eamon in 42nd Street Moon’s production of Once, a Tony-awarded musical running through June 30 at San Francisco’s Gateway Theatre.
It must have been his BA Computer Science degree that once made him hate musical theater “because I thought it was cheesy. Why are these people sing-talking with such excitement? Yuck!”
But one time, in high school, Bryan got involved in a choir show. They were doing a medley of songs from Wicked. When he got to sing Dancing through Life, he was strutting his stuff.
The song and dance appealed to him in a way that coding would in later years. “The complexity and challenge of the score piqued my interest and made me respect musical theater writers and artists. And then, realizing it was such a beautiful medium for storytelling, it got me hooked!”
He studied musical theater at Studio ACT a couple of years ago “on a whim.” He started auditioning and soon the parts rolled in. He played Paul in Novato Theater Company’s production of A Chorus Line;
Harvard in Palo Alto Players’ Flower Drum Song; Georg in Left-Hand Theater Co.’s Spring Awakening; Greg Madison in Pinole Players’ It Shoulda Been You; and Actor 1 (u/s) and Actor 3 (u/s) in SF Playhouse SF’s King of the Yees.
Of the aforementioned, he loved playing Paul “because I love diving into serious roles. It helps me exercise that specific acting muscle because I’m generally a cheery, comic person in real life.”
But his “dream role would be Evan in Dear Evan Hansen.” It’s a Broadway musical that opened in 2016 with a hero who is not a hero, who is caught up in a lie and tries to get out of it. “It was the first time I thought to myself, ‘a non-traditional leading man is the leading man!’ It gave me confidence that who I am is enough and that people are writing roles for characters from all walks of life, not just the traditional leading man.”
And then Eamon, an Irish role in Once walked in. Bryan laughs, “I prepared by learning the accent.” He went through the full yard of hardening consonants, softening vowels, dropping Gs, etc.
Then, in his actor’s tradecraft, he also used “the (show’s) material and score to bring the setting of the story to life so, it feels like I’m in Ireland every time we’re running something from the show.”
What’s not to like with Once? It’s score is the only one to have won an Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Olivier. It’s about love growing between an Irish man who repairs vacuum cleaners and his music that a Czech immigrant brings back to life. He, on guitars; she, the piano. They make beautiful music together and they themselves begin to feel for each other (underscored by the award-winning song, Falling Slowly).
But Once is real life. He asks her to stay and she tells him she loves him in Czech but does not translate. She goes back to her husband and he to his ex-girlfriend. They connected; the bond is there, so powerful it remains even when they are apart.
Bryan plays Eamon, the studio executive who may be jaded but finds their song a gem. He is the final element that puts their song out.
You may catch Bryan exclaim, “Erin go bragh!” but don’t let that fool you. Set a plate of palabok before him and he’ll probably ask for lumpia as well.
Bryan was born in Garapan Village, Saipan. He was born of Filipino parents and came to the mainland very young. His Dad was in civil engineering; his Mom, accounting. When he’s not acting, Bryan is programs coordinator at Theater Bay Area.