Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Once: A New Musical

Back in January I wrote about several different shows that I wanted to see in the spring. Sadly (or not, depending on how you look at it), I have not been able to get back to New York since last October. The first national tour of American Idiot kind of took over my life and sucked away all my money (not that I would have traded the experience for anything).

That being said, I've been wanting to see Once since it was off-Broadway. Since it made my Spring Wish List, I knew I had to get to New York to see it...after all, SUMMER is nearly over!

I pulled a crazy trip to New York this weekend, in which I didn't sleep in a bed for over 48 hours, got very little sleep in general, and only spent 11 hours in New York City. I missed my city. It was nice to be back. Even if it was for such a short amount of time.

This show has been so popular that it was nearly impossible to get discounts, even when it opened. After winning the 2012 Tony for Best Musical, discounts pretty much disappeared. It shows up occasionally at TKTS, but I wasn't about to risk not getting a ticket after that crazy trip, so for the first time in nearly 3 years, I paid full price for a ticket to see a show on Broadway.

Let me just say this...it's worth it. I have not seen the movie on which the musical is based, so I have nothing to compare it with, but I do believe it is one of the most beautiful pieces of theatre I've ever seen.

The show, set in Dublin, is about two characters known only as Guy and Girl. Guy is a broken-hearted Dublin native, and Girl is a Czech immigrant. Their story is as much about the love and power of music as it is about the love between the two characters themselves.
Visually, this show is stunning. The set is simple and intimate, much like the show itself. Scenic design by Bob Crowley and lighting by Natasha Katz married perfectly, helping to shift the mood and emotion throughout the show. The back wall of the set was covered in old mirrors, but instead of distracting from the action on stage, it helped enhance what was happening. One point that I remember vividly, Guy has his back to the audience watching Girl as she plays her piano. I could see him, perfectly reflected in one of the mirrors. As I watched his expression in the reflection, I couldn't help but think how perfectly it set the mood of the scene, and how beautifully it had been done.

Guy, played by Steve Kazee, is heart-broken and ready to walk away from his guitar and his music forever when Girl walks into his life. Played by Cristin Milioti, Girl is a Czech immigrant with a love for music and a broken vacuum cleaner. But most importantly, Girl recognizes the talent and soul in Guy’s music and does everything she can to keep him from walking away from his music and from giving up on love.
Kazee brings both chills and tears when he sings. I am quite positive that everyone in the theatre could feel the emotion rolling off the stage when Kazee sang. Milioti’s Girl is funny, sweet, driven, and serious. After all, as she says many times, “I’m always serious. I’m Czech.” Together, they have an on stage chemistry that reaches all the way to the back of the theatre and makes you root for the happy ending that could be.
The rest of the cast is equally as talented and amazing. Each actor has created amazingly in depth characters, while also playing instruments to give the show its music. There is no separate orchestra, only the actors themselves. One of my favorites was Paul Whitty, as music shop owner Billy. He had some of the best one liners in the show and was a constant source of entertainment while he was on stage, even though his character was very serious. Two other sources of great talent, and wise characters, were David Patrick Kelly, playing the role of Da, and Anne L. Nathan as Baruลกka.
This is not to leave out any of the other amazing actors in the show. Each one brought life and depth to this beautiful story. Each one brought amazing musical talent to the stage. I’d list them all, but this post might go on forever.
 I do feel the need to point out the beautiful choreography in the show. There is no dancing, so it’s actually listed as “movement” in the playbill. Each scene change, each moving of set pieces, every step during the songs were beautifully choreographed. Most notably during the song “Gold,” which closes out the first act, but in many other times during the show, you see the grace and thought out actions that are taking place on the stage. The movement was done by Steven Hoggett, who happens to be the same person who choreographed American Idiot.
I could tell you the entire storyline, but for those of you who don’t want to know all the special parts, I’ll just say this: Once took me through a spectrum of emotions, each one more powerful than the last. It made me want to pick up the fiddle I got for Christmas 3 years ago and actually learn how to play it. It made me want to love. It made me want to cry. It made me want to laugh. It DID make me feel. And isn’t that what good theatre is supposed to do?
I could go on and on about how great the show was, but instead I’ll just note that it was announced on Monday, after I had seen the show on Saturday, that Once has already recouped it’s investment. To put that into perspective for you, in 21 weeks, this show has earned back all the money that people put into it to get it going. It was also noted that Once recouped faster than any other musical in the past decade. There’s a reason for that.
Please go see this show if you get the chance. It’s worth the money. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the trip, if you must travel. You won’t get big and elaborate, but you will be moved.


  1. Great review! We were also there on Saturday. AMAZING! I want to see it again! We were big fans of the movie and soundtrack already but the show topped it all!

  2. So the girl standing next to you in the orange shirt had no idea you were such a fan!! Or that you travelled so far. :) I saw Once shared this on their Facebook page...what a story! And I loved reading your review. Spot on. I suggest that you rent the movie or Netflix it; it is fantastic.

    I'm looking forward to following your blog!

  3. This review has summed up precisely what I try to tell those who have not seen this production. I agree 100%

  4. I agree! This show is absolutely gorgeous and the singing and acting from Steve and Cristin is brilliant! Well deserved Tony for Steve. Cristin deserved it too!

  5. Ditto to all of this. It's amazing!!!

  6. I saw Once on April 11 and fell in love immediately. The show just reaches out and embraces the audience; it hugs us to itself and doesn't let go. I saw the movie afterward and I think the show improves upon a great story. I think it has something to do with the actual BEING there in the midst of it. This review speaks for all of us who have witnesses Once.