A Once in a Lifetime Event

A Review of "Once" the musical.


©2013 Joan Marcus

Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal from the ONCE Tour Company © Joan Marcus

Once Musical
Once” recently completed a short engagement at Boston’s Opera House during its Broadway Across America National Tour.  Like many other shows, books and movies, “Once” is thematically centered on love. It tells the story of two ordinary people, one Irish (Guy) and the other  Czech (Girl) brought together by their shared interest in music. However, unlike other shows, “Once” is not the perfect, happy love story audiences have come to expect.

Directed by John Tiffany, “Once” is based on the Academy Award winning 2007 movie by the same name. It won three Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Book, and continues its run on Broadway. The touring company stars Stuart Ward as Guy and Dani de Waal as Girl.

The day I saw the show was cold and snowy. Upon entering the theater, many of the patrons were agitated and impatient, which frankly did not put me in the highest spirits.  As I rushed to my seat, I thought I was late, for the stage was crowded with people singing Irish folk music and playing their own instruments.  It was then that I realized this show was going to be very different than anything else I had seen. Even though the performance had not really started, I was already captivated by its uniqueness.

I realized this show was going to be very different than anything else I had seen.”

— Leighann Healy

“Once’s” music is unlike anything you might hear on Broadway. It’s set in Dublin, and the writers (book by Edna Walsh; most songs written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) take full advantage of this. All of the music, including  the Academy Award winning “Falling Slowly,” is casual, yet emotional Irish folk music. This adds an entirely new element to the show’s impact. Instead of having the same Broadway show tunes, “Once”  brings pub music to the stage.  I liked this aspect of the show because it allowed for the audience to enjoy many of the elements of a traditional musical, but with a more genuine and heartfelt sound. Additionally, throughout the show, all of the actors and ensemble play their own instruments on stage.  Except for “Chicago” or “Cabaret,” one rarely sees instruments on stage. This allowed for the plot, style and setting to be neatly tied together with a single common thread.

By the end of the performance, the energy in the theater was much different than when I originally entered. By the crowd’s reaction, it seemed they enjoyed it as much as I had.  If it were not on tour, I would love to see it again. I highly recommend that if the opportunity presents itself, you should go see it!

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