I’ve seen a string of musicals based on popular films lately, and they’ve been a real mixed bag. So it was with some apprehension that I went to see “Once” on Broadway recently.
It turned out to be wonderful. A truly moving theatrical experience.
You can’t blame me for being skeptical… Let’s review the last year of movies-onstage, shall we?
- Ghost the Musical was mediocre and inconsistent
- Newsies was absolutely fantastic
- Wit was decent but not extraordinary (yes I know it was a play first, but I saw the movie first)
- Shrek was fantastic in a brainless sort of way
I remembered having the movie, but couldn’t recall much about it other than a general feeling of satisfaction at the end of it. So I went into Once cautiously optimistic, because at least this was a musical movie to begin with.
The storyline follows the movie pretty cleanly, and is simple: a single man is about to give up making music when a stranger at a bar hears him play and befriends him. He grudgingly makes some music with her and they find themselves growing closer, though not in the way you’d expect in a typical romance story.
What’s so great about this play is that it has more genuine heart than anything I’ve seen recently. As much as I raved about Newsies recently, and compared even to The Submission (which, oh wow, completely astounded me) no show has affected me so emotionally in recent memory.
I loved the actors’ portrayals of the characters — particularly from the two leads — and the vocal and instrumental talents of everyone in the cast. (Except for one singer who is supposed to sound awful, and succeeds brilliantly.) Yes, this is one of those rare shows where the music is performed by the actors (or vice versa, depending on your point of view.) And they all do it well.
I do have one tip for you, if you’re thinking of going to see Once. (And you should.) Plan to arrive at the theatre about thirty minutes before curtain time. You may end up waiting outside for a bit, but when you get inside you can head straight to the stage for a [very expensive] drink with the cast. You’ll even get to chat with them (in character) and hear them warm up together.
Go see Once while you have the chance. It’s absolutely heartwarming, and music is fantastic, and you will leave unable to get the show out of your mind. It’s that good.