Theatre Review: ‘Once: The Musical’ Is A Melodic Love Story

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Review by James McDonald

A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

When the movie “Once” was released here in the States back in 2006, hardly anybody noticed but over time, it began to make an impact, resulting in the film’s two enigmatic and charismatic leads, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, winning an Oscar for Best Original Song. Mr. Hansard was born in Dublin, Ireland while Ms. Irglová was born in the Czech Republic and what a great and unlikely pair they made. The story is pretty straightforward but the onscreen chemistry that the duo shared, was pretty undeniable and is what helped make the movie the success it became, along with some wonderful and original songs, care of Mr. Hansard and Ms. Irglová. The musical follows the movie scene for scene and tells the story of a young Irish guy who lives with his dad and works in his shop fixing vacuum cleaners.

One day, after singing in a bar, a beautiful young Czech woman hears him and is determined to get to know him. His song is filled with raw emotion and fervor as he is suffering from a broken heart after his girlfriend moved to New York but in listening to his song, she knows he has the talent and ability to become the next big thing. Through their family and connections, they are able to put a band together and book a recording studio for 24 hours so that they can knock out some new songs. Naturally, they fall for each other but she has a husband back in the Czech Republic and he obviously still misses his girlfriend but it’s quite obvious, from the very beginning, that they have found kindred spirits in each other and while they desperately want to be together, they choose not to so as not to hurt their significant others.

The story follows their evolution from lost souls to purposeful humans with some great Irish humor along the way. It’s a heartwarming story filled with colorful characters and expressive and scintillating songs but in the end, I just couldn’t relate to the characters. In many cases, it’s usually the musical that is turned into a movie but here, it’s the other way around. The movie was perfect and the story, acting and music was first-rate and while many of those elements carry over into the musical, there is a disconnect there. There were numerous overly-long pregnant pauses throughout the story that felt amiss and I couldn’t help but feel like the actor(s) had forgotten their lines and then suddenly remembered them at the last minute but by then, it was discernible. This may not have been the case whatsoever but that’s how I perceived it.

Lead actor Stuart Ward, who plays the Irish guy, is actually an English actor but he got the nuances and subtleties of the Irish accent and slang down perfectly. Naturally, coming from Dublin myself, I can listen to an accent and tell you if it’s real or fake and he does one of the best Irish accents I’ve heard in years. Dani de Waal as the girl does a believable Czech accent and between them, they are endearing and affectionate and the story reminds you that you can fall in love when you least expect it and through the magic of music, anything is possible.

Now playing at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas thru December 28th

James McDonald
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One Response
  1. February 13, 2015

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