Theatre Review: “Once”

“Once” the musical most certainly deserves the eight Tony Awards it received early this year. Almost never, in Broadway history, has there been a musical that has a cast of such limitless talent, namely for their onstage instrumentation. The plot line revolves around a classic love story between the two protagonists: Guy (Steve Kazee) and Girl (Cristin Milioti). The names are never revealed, allowing the anonymity of these lead characters to suggest the universal appeal of this story.

The two meet after Guy performs a heart-wrenching solo musical performance — what he expected to be his last– after which Girl, who is Czech, proceeds to pester him endlessly to pursue music as a career. The two work through their own haunting past love experiences and ultimately find themselves deeply in love with one another. Throughout all of this is the theme of music and the unique ways it works in all of the characters’ lives.

The most phenomenal aspect of “Once” is the fact that it is actually a new production. With several exceptions, Broadway has recently tended to revive the old, beloved classics. However this musical is not only fresh, but extremely unique. As most theater-goers know, the secluded pit orchestra (composed of a vast ensemble of instruments) typically produces the tunes, not the actors. In “Once” it is different: every single member of the cast acts, sings, and plays an instrument. Most likely for mobility’s sake–and the Irish setting–the ‘band’ of sorts is composed of banjos, drums, basses, guitars, fiddles, pianos, mandolins, and accordions, resulting in a soundtrack that really strays away from the typical “Phantom” or “Les Mis” styled songs. What results is a confluence of Irish, folk, Czech, and American styles that fits marvelously with the theme of the musical.

As with all productions, certain things that could be tweaked or changed. With such a compelling story line, the directors didn’t need to try to make aspects of the plot funny. Let’s be real: love story tragedies (yes, to some extent it is tragic) are not synonymous with romantic comedies. Early in the story, Girl attempts to get Guy to fix her Hoover vacuum, claiming that “ze Hoover — it von’t suck.” The faltering accent coupled with awkward Czech sexual innuendo really just distracts the viewer and adds nothing to the overall message. But really, this is only a small aspect of an all around fantastic musical.

So should you go and see “Once” with your family? By all means, yes. For the more sentimental theater-goers, songs like “Falling Slowly” and “The Hill” will make your eyes tear up. And for the rest of you, “Once” will dazzle you with delight. Without a doubt, “Once” stands as a highlight of 21st century Broadway productions.

— Tommy Champion, Contributing Writer

Posted by on September 18, 2012. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

One Response to Theatre Review: “Once”

  1. Carlota Bergmann

    October 11, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Tommy, I just wrote a review for this play for my college theatre class at AU! What a coincidence. We took a trip to NYC and saw the show. This review does it justice!

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