A musical review: Once

There are eight performances of "Once" every week. // Photo by Christina De Nicola

There are eight performances of “Once” every week. // Photo by Christina De Nicola

NEW YORK — Not many people knew about the film “Once” until the 2008 Academy Awards when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won the Oscar for “Best Original Song.”

I remember watching this little movie that could in my freshman year dorm room with friends. The music was amazing as well as the honest performances from the leads.

Both characters are never given names. They are simply referred to as “Boy” and “Girl” in the screenplay. But that never took away from the story.

Plus, it was truly heartbreaking.

When I visited Ireland in June, it was surreal to walk down Grafton Street, where most of the movie took place. Much like New York City can be its own character in a story, the same could be said for this area of Dublin.

It’s known for its street musicians and liveliness. Finally getting to see it in person made it even more real.

So when “Once” the musical took home eight of the 11 Tony awards it was nominated for this year, I knew my next trip to the Big Apple meant stopping by the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

Below are some observations I took away from the show, which has no end to its run in sight:

  • The lighting is superb. During “The Hill,” Boy (Steve Kazee)’s silhouette paints the pub window. When the couple overlooks the city, harsh lighting mimics the blunt conversation.
  • The musical adaptation is very humorous, something that I don’t recall the film being. At times, I felt Girl (Cristin Milioti) was too cartoonish. At other times, she was mesmerizing.
  • I stayed after the show to meet the cast and marveled over the fact that they’re almost all American. Each did a superb job with realistic Irish accents.
  • One of my favorite songs in the movie, “Fallen From the Sky,” was not featured in the musical. I wish it was, but it was fine without it.
  • Though I salute the minimalist set design — simply a pub that serves as a gathering spot for the characters — what I loved most about the film was the actual locations in Dublin, particularly Grafton Street. I know it would’ve been hard to do that in a stage version.
  • Critics claimed it was revolutionary and I wondered how. Now I know. As the audience takes its seat, there is no curtain. Instead, the pub is actually in working order. Theatre-goers can buy drinks and hang out onstage. Members of the ensemble (and even Kazee later on) show up to perform Irish folk songs before the play fluidly gets underway. One word: Revolutionary.
  • There is no orchestra. It’s the actual actors that perform with guitars, violins, drums, etc. It reminded me of what I learned in my Introduction to Theatre class at the University of Miami: Broadway actors must do it all now, including playing instruments.
“Once” won eight Tony awards, including Best Musical, Best Actor andBest Book // Photo by Christina De Nicola

Standout moment: “Falling Slowly.” The first time it is performed (as the second song in the musical), I was crying. It’s that emotional. To hear it live is of another world. The lyrics are just as harrowing as ever.

Lyric: Take this sinking boat and point it home/We still have time/Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice/You’ve made it now

Verdict: MUST SEE!

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