Summary: Set in modern day Dublin, Once is the story of a Guy who gave up on his music and his love and the Girl who inspired him to dream again.
Australian Premier Date: 4th October, 2014
Performance Review Date: 4th October, 2014
Director: John Tiffany
Playwright: Enda Walsh
Cast: Anton Berezin (Bank Manager), Andrew Broadbent (Older Male/Male Swing), Ben Brown (Emcee), Gerald Carroll (Eamon), Colin Dean (Billy), Margi de Farranti (Baruska (understudy)), Matthew Hamilton (Guy (understudy)), Lisa Hanley (Swing), Brent Hill (Svec), Shanae Icovski (Ivanka), Madeleine Jones (Girl), Stefanie Jones (Swing), Keegan Joyce (Andre), Amy Lehpamer (Reza), Tara Lyon (Ivanka), Summer Moore (Ivanka), Lachlan Neate (Young Male/Male Swing), Tom Parsons (Guy), Jane Patterson (Ex-Girlfriend), Greg Stone (Da), Susan-ann Walker (Baruska), Paul Watson (Young Male/Male Swing)
OUR ONCE REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Over the years there have been a number of theatre musicals that have been turned into big stage spectaculars. Even in recent years films such as Les Miserables and Rock Of Ages have successfully made the transition, although as Spider-Man recently showed the trade back the other way often flops.
It was for that reason that I was a little sceptical when first heading into the theatre to see Once. Once first surfaced in 2006 as an Irish film pieced together by director John Carney (who recently was responsible for the brilliant Begin Again… which I am praying also gets turned into a stage musical). The film has a bit of a cult following but isn’t exactly the kind of film that all members of the general public have heard of so the fact that it has been turned into a theatre production was a brave one to say the least. But if the Australian production is anything to go by it is a decision that I am very pleased to say I’m happy they made.
For those that haven’t seen Once the story revolves around Guy (played by Tom Parsons in the Australian production) and Girl (Madeleine Jones). Guy is a gifted musician who is about to give up on music due to the fact that he is heartbroken by the fact that his girlfriend (Jane Patterson), whom most of his songs have been written for or about, has moved to America. A chance meeting introduces him to Girl who falls in love with his music and begs him to launch into a music career.
At first Guy is reluctant but with further persuasion from Girl soon recruits the local Music Shop Owner, Billy (Colin Dean) and a higgly-piggly group of Dublin musicians together in an attempt to record a low-priced album.
Meanwhile Girl, who is a Czech immigrant (she is serious she is Czech) faces problems of her own as she raises her daughter Ivanka (Tara Lyon/Summer Moore) with no support from her husband. Her mother Baruska (Susan-ann Walker) and friends such as Reza (Amy Lehpamer) help her out in any way they can.
Any doubts that Once is going to work is quickly eroded as soon as you enter the theatre as director John Tiffany puts the productions bar set to good use by throwing open the stage and letting the patrons drink at the bar while the cast mingle amongst them playing traditional Irish folk music to really create the feeling that you are no longer in a Melbourne theatre but instead in a friendly Dublin bar. Tiffany’s excellence is on show throughout the production as he constantly finds creative and new lighting techniques and ways to complete set changes all night long.
My biggest fear for Once was not knowing any of the music. This wasn’t going to be like Rock Of Ages, there are no famous rock tracks known universally around the world that you can sing-a-long to, this is original music that has the audience going in cold, and to the productions credit it works wonders. And while you may not be able to sing-a-long while they are being performed you will find yourself singing them to yourself for days after watching the production, I’ve been humming If You Want Me and Falling Slowly ever since the curtain dropped.
Also deserving a lot of credit for how spectacular Once is the very hard-working cast. This has to be one of the most challenging musicals ever put together for a cast as they really have to be a quadruple threat. Nobody gets to hide here as the cast are called upon to act, sing, play musical instruments, dance and even act as stage-hand throughout the production. To their credit the Australian cast work so well together that they leave you in awe.
Leading the way is the brilliant Tom Parsons who has a folk music to die for and demands a great stage presence despite playing the shy and reserved Guy. Matching him at every turn is the talented Madeline Jones whose vocals on If You Want has to be heard to be believed… it is one of the reasons why you will be stopping by the theatre store on the way out to grab a copy of the CD. Cast wise Colin Dean and Brent Hill also provide amazing comedic relief while Amy Lehpamer announces herself as an actress to watch as she proves more than capable with some great violin playing while playing the very ‘friendly’ Reza.
Once is a stunning put together musical that truly deserves the awards that it has won overseas, something that it is guaranteed to do here in Australia as well. John Tiffany’s creativity makes this a theatre production that the audience is going to remember for a long time to come, while the production’s musical numbers are guaranteed to become classics. They are so well performed it feels like you are at a concert and not a theatre. Once is most likely the first ever folk musical… but it is one production that you should not miss.