One week. A love story across cultures. A night to remember.
Irish Playwright Enda Walsh’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Once has come to London’s West End, debuting at the Phoenix Theatre. Viewers of Graham Norton’s show were given a sneak peek at just what makes the musical special last Friday night, when the show’s two leading stars and supporting musicians sang live the Oscar-winning song ‘Falling Slow’.
Once is a whirlwind romance of a performance, presenting to the audience the heartstring pulling relationship between Guy (Declan Bennet) and Girl (Zrinka Cvitešić), a Dublin vacuum repairman and Czech immigrant, who are united through music. With actors required to play instruments live on stage, and with the original music and lyrics of the 2007 film composed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová to please the ear, audience members won’t fail to be moved by an evening watching this tale play out in a Dublin bar.
What helps considerably with the musical’s appeal are without a doubt the lead cast members. In the States, where Once was taking in $1 million a week in revenue, it was Cristin Milioti and Steve Kazee in the starring roles. Here in the UK, Zrinka Cvitešić is soulful as Girl. An accomplished dancer and jazz singer, in addition to being an award-winning Croatian actress, Cvitešić draws you in when accompanying on the piano the guitar-playing Guy, Declan Bennet. Bennet himself is no stranger to musicals, having starred in the Tony Award-winning Rent on Broadway, as well as American Idiot. He is also a singer-songwriter pop star in his own right, famous in both the UK and America, and has just released his third album.
Described as an ‘intimate’ experience, where spectators are invited for a drink from the onstage bar before the ‘pub set’ performance begins, Once is a musical which spins through the eternal themes of ‘love, friendship and music’: Girl convincing Guy not to give up on his dream, the two of them attempting to put together an album in a week, while contending with issues of the heart, past and present. The production won eight Tony Awards in 2012, including Best New Musical and Best Director, for John Tiffany.
With a running time of just over two hours, adults and older children alike will adore this Irish romance. Described in New York as ‘glorious and inspiring’ and even ‘revolutionary’, the show is made all the more personable through the lack of ostentatious scenery. Indeed, on Broadway the multiple Tony Award-winner Bob Crawley was the man behind set and costume design, lighting overseen by Tony-Award winner Natasha Katz. Here in London, the Phoenix Theatre – which saw the 21 year run of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers – has seen reviews such as those in The Guardian, where Once was deemed as having ‘simplicity, charm and [an] air of sweet melancholy’.
If you want evidence of the power of music, the power of love, this lyrical poem of a musical is for you.