Based on John Carney’s 2007 indie film, the musical version of Once first appeared in the West End in 2013, following a multi-Tony award-winning run on Broadway. If you missed the London production then this handsome revival, currently touring the UK, provides an excellent reminder of the beauty and simplicity of its story.
Despite cultural differences and broken hearts, a Guy and a Girl (the characters remain nameless) bond over a shared love of music. Encouraging him to fix his broken heart by recording his music, the Girl slowly realises that she has fallen for him herself.
Enda Walsh‘s carefully crafted adaptation is complemented by Francesca Jaynes’ thoughtfully unobtrusive choreography. It pulses and swells to the music but never overwhelms the naturalistic style of Peter Rowe’s thoughtful direction.
The real joy of Once is the music and how it binds the story together. The extremely talented ensemble negotiates the emotive string and percussion-heavy score with a passion. Daniel Healy as the Guy and Emma Lucia as the Girl have an ungainly yet undeniable chemistry that develops nicely through the story arc.
Some not-so-gentle comedy occasionally threatens the equilibrium of the piece, but generally the banter between Samuel Martin’s Bank Manager and Dan Bottomley’s Bill is broadly played and big-hearted.
Once has always been an intimate musical and the West End production preserved this by making the set an immersive, working bar. This aspect is absent from the touring version, probably down to tour logistics, but this doesn’t detract from what is a superlative piece of musical storytelling.