I had few preconceptions or expectations as I made my way to The Phoenix Theatre to see Once last night, I only found out it was based on a film at the weekend when a friend told me! All I knew was that it had won a slew of Tony Awards on Broadway and it was set in Dublin. A city I fell in love with when I visited it in 2011.
Once is a musical that is so emotionally, musically and theatrically different to anything else on a West End stage at present. Since leaving the theatre its melodies, emotions, images and thoughts have lingered like few productions do.
The cast are actor/musicians each playing a part and various instruments. The playing is superb and invokes the emotions the main characters Guy and Girl go through, whilst telling the story of the book. It really is an ensemble piece, each person has their own story which you’re drawn into. The ensemble stay onstage throughout and accompany the songs as applicable.
This is a lyrical show and has a more relaxed pace in keeping with the people and setting. This was a refreshing change. It was lovely to sit back and be charmed by this gentle tale.
Bob Crowley’s set is one of the most simple, yet creative and clever I’ve seen. An effective use of mirrors and lighting takes us through various locations even though the set is a fixed Dublin bar. A nice touch is the bar is open for business before the show and during the interval if you fancy a drink onstage!
For me though, I finally feel like there has been a musical written for me, about people, and emotions that are relevant to me, a youngish man in a city with his own hopes and dreams. I must also highlight that any men out there who say “I don’t like musicals” fear not if your other half suggests a trip to Once. It’s more like a shindig at your local with an emotional punch than a “jazz hands” musical you may have been dragged along to in the past.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s songs are gorgeous. I purchased the soundtrack straight after seeing the show, I was so keen to hear it again. On my way to work today listening to it in the car I was again blown away by the beauty of the melodies and lyrics. Being set it Dublin there are also a few that get your toes tapping too. The songs If You Want Me and Falling Slowly have stayed with me like few melodies do after a musical.
This is a musical with soul. No superficiality, no glitz, no, this is an emotional tale told with raw heartfelt gusto. Just what the West End has been crying out for.
It’s a show about love and I’m head over heels for it. Once will not be enough for me I’ll be back soon to take it all in again.
STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Tickets can be bought from : Shows In London