Once (The Musical) – Review

William J Connolly
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Phoenix Theatre, London | 3:00pm, 5th September, 2013

Beautiful, effortless and honest.

New to London, Once (The Musical) follows the life of a young Dublin busker, labeled ‘Guy’, and his love for creating music. Alongside Czech born ‘Girl’, their joint drive for the success of his music and mutual love for each other in song, keeps this story as simple and honest as they come.

David Hunter leads the cast as ‘Guy’, replacing Declan Bennett. Hunter is most known for his part in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s reality TV show, Superstar. His annoyed, often angry character pushes away all help offered after his ex-girlfriend left him to pursue a career in New York City.

Czech born Zrinka Cvitešić, whose character is of the same nationality, joins Hunter onstage as ‘Girl’. She first emerges from the centre of the audience as he breaks down during an emotionally filled ‘Leave’, a personal favourite from the piece. Her adorable laugh and delicate choice of acting is rather opposite to Hunter’s occasional harsh character. The two make a great pairing, Hunter making a great replacement if the production ever required a new leading male. The duo, perfectly matched, create the most intimate of moments together, without ever needing to signify their love through affection. In Once, the words are the love they share.

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Once was written for the stage by Edna Walsh, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová and is the recipient of 11 Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical. Previous to this, it was an award-winning film, released to screens in 2008.

The production is supported by a great cast of around 8 talented ensemble members, varying in age, and all armed with a musical instrument and the means to play it to the highest level. ‘Gold’, the show’s closing number, ends with a full cast, each with their own instrument, playing to the point of exhaustion and thoroughly deserving of the great applause it achieved.

Stand-out numbers include, ‘Falling Slowly’, ‘If You Want Me’, and ‘Say It to Me Now’.

The honest, simple touches that will make even the coldest of hearts cry, at least once. Watching a gentleman of at least 40-years sob repeatedly during the show’s closing number shows the true power of the piece. I could fall in love with Cvitešić and Hunter repeatedly. Performances that were so beautiful, effortless and honest the theatre stood silent on so many occasions. Just stunning.

Sitting fourth row, in stalls on a busy Summer’s afternoon and at a small cost of £37.50, Once is a great, cheap alternative for families or those wanting to experience the best of British theatre in top-end seats. The show also has a working bar on stage that allows audience members to purchase drinks on the set itself before watching the show unfold.

If large-scale sets and big ensemble numbers are your thing, then I’d stay away from Once until you’ve experienced all else that London has to offer. However, if delicate, intimate and moving pieces equal a great night at the theatre for you, Once is perfect.

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Once is without a doubt my top recommendation this season.


Once (The Musical) plays at the Phoenix Theatre, London.

Tickets available direct at: www.oncethemusical.co.uk

About William J Connolly

Theatre journalist | Ex: The Times Newspaper, London 2012 (PR) and Marketing Manager for CHTC (Sheffield Lyceum). Twitter: @WJConnolly

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