Once is for all

On Broadway it is very rare to get into a story before actors even open their mouths. Once, however, has this amazing “it” factor.
Not only did it win eight Tony Awards in 2012, but a recent performance began with audience members exploring the stage and enjoying drinks as they listened to music, creating such an authentic pub atmosphere that the performance kicked off without the audience noticing when one of the leads entered nonchalantly and began playing the opening number on his guitar.
The whole show carried this air of modesty, which let audience members feel like they were also experiencing the chain of events that took place among the cast of 13.
Once begins with characters Guy and Girl meeting as strangers in Dublin, Ireland, where both of them are having trouble with their significant others. This sparks an offbeat romance with just the right amounts of humor and conflict to make things interesting. The show has been on Broadway since 2012.
The set, designed by Bob Crowley, remained simple and consistent with the Bohemian atmosphere. Beautifully complementing the cast’s talent and musical ability, the set’s simple shape was that of an amphitheater, which let the acoustic sound bounce easily off the stage. Crowley won his fifth Tony Award for his work with the production.
IMG_0599Costumes were a little confusing at times. Girl, for example, was supposed to be between 25 and 30 years old, but at one point wore  a schoolgirl-like outfit. Overall, though, the costumes were very period- and location-appropriate.
Special effects were also very minimalistic but hit just the right moments to make scenes marvelous. At one point a star screen appeared on the ground of the stage. Lighting designer Natasha Katz won her third Tony Award for her work in this production.
Even with a fairly large ensemble, casting in Once worked well. Leads actors were fantastic but one couldn’t miss how important ensemble member were too. Whether they were off to the side, strumming a few chords, or creatively moving set pieces while dancing, actors were dedicated and purposeful.
The genuine togetherness of the cast made interactions seem real. The ensemble acted as the orchestra in the production, which lasted about two hours.
The acting was phenomenal though three understudies performed on this night, including one for Guy, one of the most crucial roles in the show. That understudy was J. Michael Zygo, a young actor making his Broadway debut with this show. The chemistry was a little bit spotty between Zygo and Girl, played by Equity actress Joanna Christie. The accents could have been more developed (they sounded inconsistent at times), but otherwise this show exceeded my expectations.
The production was based on a movie of the same name. The music in both art forms was written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the actors who played Guy and Girl in the movie.
Some musicIMG_0600al highlights are “Falling Slowly,” a soft duet that is a sad acoustic love song, and “If You Want Me,” sung by Girl when contemplating her future. In 2007 “Falling Slowly” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
It must have been hard for the Broadway team to pick which songs from the movie to keep and which to cut, but the decisions they made added to the whole. The songs in the stage production fit together perfectly.
Whereas film story seemed laid back and conservative, the live performance was bold, witty and community-centered. The unique ambiance the actors created was meant to leave the audience feeling good.
There were two acts, and with each one, the characters grew more real and significant to me, which made the story sink right into my heart. Most of all, the force that moved the audience to stand for a well-earned ovation was the relatable love story that touched everyone who witnessed it.
John Tiffany, the show’s director, won a Tony in 2012 for Best Direction of a Musical.
Once is currently grossing about $525,000 per week in ticket sales, which makes it look like it will not be closing anytime soon. Almost 7,000 seats sell in a week, with tickets starting at $50 for seats with a partial view on oncethemusical.com.