Thursday, 28 March 2013

Once the Musical: Theatre Review

Based on the film of the same name, Once the musical has transferred over from Broadway to London’s West End. The original production opened off-Broadway in December 2011, closing the following month and transferring to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in February 2012 on Broadway.  Winning multiple Tony Awards, it still remains to be a huge success over seas. Before opening at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End, Once made a stop in Dublin (where the show is set) proving majorly popular with audiences already  its future is certainly looking pretty good at the moment!  
The musical follows the story of how the lead male (named simply, Guy) is helped and inspired to take his music career further by Girl (Maybe the writer couldn’t think of names...). They get a band together and record some songs, fall in love but don’t do anything about it. Can’t believe how they spread that over two and a half hours? Neither can I. 
I must say, there was touching moments in the show that pull at the heart strings but the majority of the rest of it is dragged out far too much. The story didn’t go anywhere; it was dull and had no dynamics what so ever. The energy was very low throughout the entire production and the scenes could easily be cut in half. I honestly believe this show could be a good one act production but instead (for reasons of which I do not know) it is a full two act musical. There is no denying that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglva’s score is beautiful. But it’s very forgettable. I couldn’t even hum you a tune let alone tell you a title of one of the songs! Also I got quite bored in some of them. 
John Tiffany directs this production and I must say you can really tell that he loves this show, his enthusiasm for this production shone through his direction and he’s pulled everything together so well; it flowed fantastically. One thing I’ve read quite a few times is that the show has a ‘minimal’ set, I do not agree with this statement. The backdrop to Once is an Irish pub which is used in the interval and before the show as a bar for the audience. However I found this far too distracting with all the mirrors whilst watching it, especially when the actors were meant to be in different locations. I just didn’t believe it and as much as I wanted to I could tell they were in a skanky set of a pub on a stage, very disappointing. 
However Natasha Katz frames the scenes perfectly with her lighting designs and despite the problems with the set, does her best to separate each location. Declan Bennett is by far the star of this production. His charm and innocence in the role was lovely to watch and his vocals are incredible. He’s quite intense when he sings the songs in this show and you could have heard a pin drop in when his vocals were filling the theatre. Zrinka Cvitesic plays the Girl in the show and she really plays up to the comedy in the show, I really think she does the role justice. The character is very much a real person, she’s created someone who we love but also really want to try and understand and get underneath her skin. 
The ensemble were great, I couldn’t single out any of them because they all played their smaller roles so well and also pulled together as an ensemble magnificently. The fact that all the cast doubled up as the orchestra was also astounding to watch. Was very different to see the instruments being played on stage but the performers playing them weren’t distracting away from the main action going on whilst they were playing. The cast gelled together amazingly. 
Overall I’m not so crazy about the show, I wouldn’t say I got bored but I’d say it’s slow and long. See this show if you want, but don’t go just because of the hype. Once was definitely enough for me (see what I did there.)

Rating: **

Once is currently running at the Phoenix Theatre

Cast Includes: Declan Bennett, Zrinka Cvitesic, Valda Aviks, Poppy-Lily Baker, Mia Jai Bryan, Ryan Fletcher, Pacha Anna Green, Nancy Ann Jeans, Aidan kelly, Gareth O'Connor, Michael O'Connor, Miria Parvin, Jos Slovick, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Jes Unwin and Gabriel Vick. 

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