Theatre review: Once - the musical

Posted on: 22 April 2013 by Agatha Cheng

Musicals don’t come more intimate than John Tiffany’s new production of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical Once (Phoenix Theatre), Laurence Green reviews.

The action takes place in present-day Dublin where a singer-songwriter is mired in depression since his girlfriend left for New York. He has a day job working as a Hoover repair man in his father’s shop, but also busks on the Dublin streets where he meets a quirky, piano-playing Czech woman, the mother of a young daughter, who is separated from her husband. By sheer coincidence she has a vacuum cleaner that needs repairing and write songs too. They play together in a music shop and a bond develops between them. Indeed music allows them to articulate feelings that they otherwise struggle to express.

This is the complete antithesis to the satirical show The Book of Mormon which opened a few weeks ago and where everything is taken to excess. Here the tone is bittersweet, melancholic and simple. The song by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who both starred in the film, art heartfelt and, for the most part, sad, wistful and melodic. The book by Enda Walsh follows the film’s script quite though he adds comic scenes and characters of his own, including a group of zany Czech immigrants who outstay their welcome.

Bob Crowley’s beautifully realised set of a dark, curved, mirror-laded Irish pub where the talented cast of actor-musicians create the uplifting spirit of an Irish ceilidh on stage does much to enhance the atmosphere and mood of the play.

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić as the main couple, known simply as Guy and Girl make the tenderness that blossoms between them in this modern fairytale seem genuinely authentic and sing with real feeling.

In short then this is a poignant, slow-burning show that may not set the West End alight but which has a delicate, truthful charm all its own.

Run until November 30
Box office: 0844 871 7629

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