Once first appeared on stage on Broadway in 2012 where it won numerous Tony awards so this is a relatively, new musical which was based on the 2007 film of the same name.
I had heard the soundtrack previously but hadn’t managed to see it during its West End run and to be honest I wasn’t blown away by the score.
However, I have to say tonight completely changed my opinion of the piece. The set representing a Dublin pub had lots of details and as we entered the auditorium we were pleasantly serenaded by the cast in a typical Irish manner – a really upbeat start to the evening.
Actor/Musicians are very much in favour these days and sometimes you feel they are there for the novelty rather than adding to the production, but you couldn’t say this about Once. I loved all mixes of the performers and instruments – this was a perfect dynamic.
Daniel Healy as Guy had huge appeal as a performer and allowed us to see his transition over the few days of the story. I liked the rawness of his delivery which allowed us to understand the character better and emote with him. Emma Lucia as Girl, I thought gave such energy to the part without ever looking like she was putting any effort in. In fact, she had a calmness about her portrayal which was enchanting.
By contrast Sean Kingsley as Billy was fun, exuberant and gave us some great humour and lighter moments in the show. I thought his lead in the acapella number was also quite beautiful. There were some other lovely moments from Samuel Martin as the Bank Manager with what felt like ‘one of those’ X-Factor auditions and some great sparring with Sean Kingsley in Act 2. Lloyd Gorman as Svec and James William-Pattison as Andrej also gave us some great light relief with or without trousers!
I found the Czech song at the Girls house share very amusing and thought this was a really fun number – I also really liked the Czech subtitles – it was the little things that made this work so well.
I have to say I often found myself drawn to Kate Robson-Stuart both in her energetic Violin playing and something about her stance and moves which had all the markings of a dancer on the prowl. The whole cast were very strong with no weak points, but my only comment is I would have liked them to use the Pub set a little more as I felt it was a fantastic set which I felt was under used.
This show did pull at my heart strings and I was almost welling up – almost! I can’t say my thoughts on the music has changed, I still found it all ‘a bit the same’ but it worked really well in the context of the show.
I know the audiences will love this show for the storyline alone and as a whole production it is one which will deliver and I recommend if you haven’t managed to see it at The New Wolsey or The Queens Theatre, then get tickets because I don’t think you will be disappointed.