Wednesday, 12 February 2020

REVIEW: Once at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Once is nothing short of the most joyous celebration of music on any stage anywhere. Dublin culture roared off the stage of the New Victoria Theatre, Woking and left the audience humming, toe tapping and clapping along. 

“Based on the critically acclaimed and much-loved film, you will meet (and never forget) two lost souls - a Dublin street busker and a Czech musician - who find each other unexpectedly and fall in love. You will fall in love too, with this brilliant and beautiful musical, filled with love music from lush ballads to barnstorming reels. Once the Musical is a spell-binding and uplifting story of hopes and dreams.” 

The stagecraft of this show is magnificent; an ensemble band of fourteen who barely leave the stage, encasing our “guy” and “girl” throughout the piece. Tastefully small and intricate sets allow for the music to lead this piece. “Once the Musical” much like the original independent film which inspired it doesn’t need fanciful costumes, lighting and giant moving parts - the score is so beautifully composed, I suspect even against a white backdrop I’d have loved it all the same. This is not to discredit the wonderful set and costume designs of Libby Watson, but moreso to commend Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova which proves the real heart in this musical.

With a musical score evoking the sounds of Damien Rice and/or Mumford and Sons, it’s a contemporary score to marvel. There are also some wonderful sections inspired by the chaotic orchestrations of “Kalinka” and the like, showing wonderfully the stark musical differences between Guy’s Ireland and Girl’s Czech Republic. 

In the leading roles are the beautiful pairing of Daniel Healy and Emma Lucia. An electric chemistry is shared, alongside a stunning vocal blend. Healy’s voice is raw and visceral whilst Lucia offers a more ethereal siren-style voice. Guy’s introduction with “Leave” sets an impressive benchmark for the show which is repeatedly smashed higher and higher throughout the show. “If You Want Me” and “The Hill” are Lucia’s most glorious moments with “Gold” sealing Healy’s status as the man with music in his veins. It is however the ensemble as a whole who come together with the leads and create a hugely impressive and dramatic wall of sound. With all sixteen performers playing instruments or a few guitars or acapella, this cast do not miss a beat or place a note wrong (not that I heard anyway, though unfortunately it’s worth noting there were a number of microphone issues throughout the evening which affected the balancing of the music. Hopefully just an opening night teething snag…). 

For theatre-goers less keen on tits-and-teeth musicals, this is a show for you. Similarly, as a fan of spectacle theatre, this is a welcomed change. It impresses on all counts whilst being stripped bare of all extraneous detail without for even a moment feeling cheap or low budget. Once the Musical is a beautifully told love story which celebrates music and culture in the most uplifting and joyous way imaginable. There is so much heart in this piece and my God, it’s beautiful. 

Review by Harriet Langdown

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: L36 Stalls | Price of Ticket: £37.50
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