After 3 years on Broadway and 2 at The West End, Once has finally returned to its home of Dublin, and is being shown in the iconic Olympia Theatre. Funny, stunning, and emotional, this is one show you can’t miss. Whether you’re a theatre regular or if musicals aren’t really your thing, this show will encapsulate and uplift you. The story takes place over five days when two people, a Girl and a Guy, meet and bond over their love for music. It’s based on the movie Once written and directed by John Carney, starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová who both also wrote the music. The play was created by playwright Enda Walsh, director John Tiffany, musical supervisor Martin Lowe, with movement by Steven Hoggett, and scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley. The movie won an Academy Award and the musical has won a total of 8 Tony awards.
It is a simple story with a big impact about how small steps can instigate massive change. It’s about how easily we can effect each other’s lives and how important it is not to let fear hold you back from living the best life that you can. The musical is set in Dublin with the arced stage designed as a typical Irish pub. This is the perfect setting because although they flit in and out of various locations, it keeps the constant presence of the Irish pub music scene lingering in every act.
The script is funny and quick witted, which was elevated by the actors’ brilliant comedic timing, there were many moments where the whole room erupted into laughter. On the flip side, there were also moments where the beautiful voices and angelic harmonies sent the room into complete silence. The choreography was beautiful and graceful and worked well with the cleverly thought out and minimalist scenery.
The fact that the characters on stage are the ones playing the instruments rather than a backing track really improves the musicals impact. It gives the audience more of a chance to feel connected to these characters and to get to know them better, which is important because it’s the characters that make this play work as well as it does. Their stories of heartbreak and financial struggle is something that everyone can relate to and this realism made the connection between stage and audience effortless.
The singer-songwriter sound is not something that is usually heard on big stage performances. Broadway musicals are a genre within themselves and the songs in Once are a far removal from that. But it still works so well as while it is calm and understated, it is also bold, impactful, and full of heart.
It was difficult at first to see how the movie would be translated onto stage as not much really happens, which worked well in a movie format because it was quirky and had a documentary style feel to it. Therefore it was hard to see how this would work on stage, but they seemed to have gotten the perfect balance of the understated love story. Characters who were a mere background in the movie were given bigger storylines and personalities, and Girl has a more central presence in the lives of everyone else.
Once is an appreciation and a celebration of the strong history of Irish musicians, poets, and storytellers. It’s a reminder not only of how influential and beautiful our culture is, but how much it’s grown and been enriched by the thousands of people who come from overseas to call Ireland their home. So whether you’re visiting Dublin for a few days, a little longer, or permanently, come and see the show that encapsulates the Irish heart and soul.
Once is showing at the Olympia Theatre until the 27th of August. Tickets priced from €30 are on sale now from ticketmaster.
Words by Lissa