I’m not sure I can remember the last musical that brought me very close to tears. ‘Once’ is a tragic love story between and Irish musician and a Czech girl who inspires him to return to music after hearing him play . Based on the movie of the same name, the show features music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova who have created a quite brilliant score. It has all the flavours of the original film (with Irish Folk and Indie Rock influences still incredibly clear), and adds a Musical sensibility. The team won an Academy Award for ‘Falling Slowly’ which is also featured in the Musical.
The staging and direction are genius throughout the show. The whole cast begin the show on stage, jamming out to Irish folk tunes, as audience members fill the theatre and even go onto the stage to grab a drink at the bar. As the show begins, there is no change in musicians, with the cast doubling as the band throughout. Although this is not a new idea, it works brilliantly for this piece, where the characters musicality is so key to the story. As the show continues, the direction and staging remain clean throughout, assisted by a quite brilliant lighting plot, which isolates sections of the almost bare, ‘pub-style’ stage, to create miniature scenes. The wide variety in the brightness of the lighting also has an immense affect on the atmosphere of the theatre.
Unlike ‘Leap of Faith’, this is one of the best Books ever written for a musical. Having an incredible screenplay to base the show on is always going to be an advantage, however its translation to the stage is spot on. Not only is the story itself touching and heartbreaking, the script itself captures a reality that is very rarely seen in Musical Theatre, with some scenes replicating the emotional connection between characters normally only seen on screen.
There are too many outstanding performances within the cast to mention. Every actor/musician delivers a knockout performance. The leads, played by Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, share a deep emotional connection which makes their characters’ plights so much more powerful. Your heart breaks for them and yet, at the same time, they still inspire you as you look on, to go for everything you’ve ever wanted or dreamed about, even if the journey is deemed to failure.
This is a truly beautiful show, musically, book-wise and performance-wise. It is my pick for Best Musical 2012 after seeing all the nominated works and I suggest it to anyone is coming to New York. I hope that it has a fantastic run, it deserves every success.