The Fabulous Fox Theater presents “Once,” the new Broadway musical showing April 8th through the 20th.
The musical is based on an Irish musical film of the same name released in 2006. Written and directed by John Carney the film made its transition into the musical form by Enda Walsh’s adaptation and direction by John Tiffany. Premiering in 2011 at the off-Broadway New York Theater Workshop and taking Broadway by storm in 2012 the musical was nominated for 11 and won 8 Tony awards in 2012, including best musical.
The plot follows a young Dublin musician identified as “Guy.” Frustrated with the lack of interest in his music Guy abandons his guitar. A young Czech woman identified as “Girl” stops him and through her belief in his music she is able to convince him to not give up on his dream. Over the course of a few days they spiral into a complex relationship teetering with much potential. They inspire each other’s music, lives and support each other in ways they were lacking before that leaves the audience craving that first kiss.
Stuart Ward (Downton Abbey) plays Guy. His moody vocals mixed with his incredible falsetto and dynamic performance made his portrayal of Guy real and relatable. Dani DeWaal’s quick witted and comedic portrayal of Girl allowed moments of laughter as well as moments of hope. Yes, there is the typical Guy/ Girl relationship and yes he is handsome and she is beautiful but do not expect the expected with this musical.
The musical is unique in that it is extremely open. There were no huge costume changes, no flashy set pieces, no dance number featuring 50 dancers. The show has a very transparent feel that adds rawness to the plot. The proper term is subtle. The show is subtle in telling its very simple story. Silence and stillness have a place in this musical as it leaves in life’s awkward pauses and silences. The music functions as expression of an emotion that just cannot be simply spoken. The songs have strong folk roots with a little rock and poetic lyrics. They incorporate the guitar, the bass, the cello, the violin, the hand drum, the accordion and so much more. It is the use of various accents that really transports the audience to Dublin and adds another acoustically appealing element to the show.
Adding to the minimalist feel the show has no orchestra. Musicians and those who appreciate instrumental skill will appreciate the pure talent of these actors. All of the music is performed by the actors as they are on stage, acting. All of the choreography is done while the actors are acting and playing their instruments and singing! The level of talent expressed so subtly inspires awe. The actors flowed from song to song, from instrument to instrument, and scene to scene flawlessly.
“Once” provided theater goers with an extremely unique experience. Before the show began and during intermission the audience was allowed on the Fox’s grand stage to view the set. Before the show began the cast played for the incoming audience and during intermission the set transformed into a bar where audience members could step up on stage and purchase a drink. To have the chance to walk on the same historic stage as many of musical theater’s greats is indescribable. The set itself was very simple. A dirty checkered patterned floor and wooden walls covered in old stained mirrors. The “Ole Pub” feel of Dublin. The majority of scene changes involved the maneuvering of pieces already on stage by those on stage.
As one of the last shows in the Fox’s Broadway series you won’t want to miss Once. Even if you have seen the film there is nothing like experiencing it live. The cast really puts heart into the music and their performances leaving the audience with a unique experience to take home with them that they can’t put a price on.