A stage adaptation of the film with the same name, ONCE tells the charming story of two people who bring out the best in one another in the way only falling in love can do. Set against the backdrop of an Irish pub (as we picture everything in Ireland to be), the show defies the stereotypical musical genre and relies on the quiet beauty of the story to compel the audience. It works.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of signing – the cast of 13 are all uber-talented musicans, singers and actors – and there are songs scattered throughout the entire show; some even include dancing. But the pre-intermission number with tap dancing chorus girls ain’t here. Instead you’ll find mostly ballads or slow-building guitar numbers that focus on poetry rather than toe-tapping. It’s subtle, it’s pretty and it’s very engaging.
Much of the show relies on the chemistry and likeability of the main couple and Stuart Ward as the Guy is the epitome of the dreamy alt-rock, guitar-strumming, sensitive yet manly hipster. He elevates the show everytime he gets behind the mic. Dani de Waal as the Girl wasn’t my fav., but she’s got a great set of pipes and the sparks between her and Ward were real and palpable and just what was needed. The all-encompassing, emotionally-confusing first days of falling in love is one of the experiences that makes life worth living – despite how terrifying it is, it’s also absolutely thrilling – and it’s a really special show that can remind you of that.
Those expecting a more typical musical may not be won over – I could tell the show didn’t meet the spectacle expectations of a few fellow audience members, but the usual musical pastiche wouldn’t have worked here, it would have hurt the story and it’s beauty to try it.
Arrive early so you can grab a drink on stage. For real.