Based on the beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking, hearwarming indie film Once comes the ever so slightly less beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking, heartwarming but nevertheless great (although not very indie anymore) West End production Once. Both tell the simple story of Guy, an Irish hoover repairman and musician, meets Girl, a Czech mother and musician, leading to Guy and Girl making beautiful music together.
Whereas the film is entirely based around the two main characters, the play includes a slightly larger cast who serve to both take the crucial role in performing the soundtrack to the story and to add some slightly overstated comic relief. I can understand the desire to lighten the mood in a tale that tugs at the heartstrings so but I feel some of it doesn’t quite fit with the tone of the central romantic story. The film of Once is such a small intimate piece the broader comedic moments can come across as slightly jarring.
My only other criticism is that the ‘manic’ in the ‘manic pixie dream Girl’ role (Zrinka Cvitešic) is initially slightly overplayed and the coldness of the lead Guy (Declan Bennett) is perhaps a little too cold but they certainly settle down and become a lot more believable throughout the performance.
Other than these niggles the show was wonderful and maintained more intimacy than is usually possible within a West End musical. As with the film the music and songs are the real star, really emphasising the emotions of the characters. They are performed brilliantly as you can see from our Once videos. Flora Spencer-Longhurst particularly impressed (Tim) on violin.
So overall pretty excellent really. I forgot about my day-to-day worries, cried a lot, still feel slightly dazed and emotionally tired, and am looking forward to taking a small (healthy?) amount of time out wallowing over my love lost before putting on my special suit and throwing myself headlong into life.
Once is on at the Phoenix Theatre and tickets can be bought online. Go and have a laugh and a good cry.