Review – Once, in Melbourne
Princess Theatre, Melbourne
The history of Once
The musical is based on the Irish film which became a surprise international hit in 2006, starring Glen Hansard (from Irish group The Frames and he also appeared in the movie The Commitments) and Markéta Irglová, a Czech musician. The film was shot on a shoestring budget over three weeks, using mostly friends and family and some of the actors’ homes – including Hansards flat. The movie was a huge hit, and went on to win an Oscar for Best Song (Falling Slowly). All the songs were written by Hansard or Irglová.
Once in Melbourne
Rarely is an audience invited on stage of one of Melbourne historic theatres for an Irish ale in a Dublin pub. But head along to the toe-tapping musical Once and you can have your five minutes of fame under the bright lights, sip an Irish beverage and clap away to great Irish music as the cast warms up.
Then you return to your seat and sit back and enjoy what has been described as a musical that’s not really a musical in the traditional sense.
Set in modern day Dublin, it is all about a struggling Irish busker, Guy, who is a vacuum cleaner repairman, disillusioned with life and his music.
The role played by rising British star, Tom Parsons, is a story of love and melancholy.
Enter a girl, played by Madeleine Jones, a sassy piano-playing Czech immigrant, who encourages him to follow his dream to become a performer on the world stage and rekindle his lost love in the US.
Known as Girl, she revives his love of music and in doing so, the audience is treated to an evening of rich song and music that’s uplifting and is sheer entertainment.
Forget big sets and lavish costumes – the show really centres around the Irish pub complete with tarnished mirrors and lamps, yet it gets under your skin for all the right reasons.
The collection of songs (all about love, longing and heartbreak) features the beautiful Leave and a great cappella number Gold as well as the moving The Moon, When Your Mind’s Made Up and The Hill. The cast of 13, who rarely leave the stage, all have their own stories to tell. The quirky “characters” are extremely talented musicians and singers who play guitars, cellos, pianos and violins, even a piano accordion, all the while singing with effortless grace.
Director John Tiffany describes Once as combining the joys of watching a show, seeing a gig and spending the evening in a pub. Tiffany wanted the audience to experience the music happening in front of them when they arrived, so that when it starts the whole show feels like a song in a pub.
Arrive early, step up on stage, then settle back and enjoy the indulgence of eclectic, evocative music and voices that leave you in awe.
Heading up the ensemble in the key roles of Guy and Girl are Tom Parsons and Madeleine Jones. The cast also includes Anton Berezin, Andrew Broadbent, Ben Brown, Gerard Carroll, Colin Dean, Margi de Ferranti, Matthew Hamilton, Lisa Hanley, Brent Hill, Shanae Icovski, Stefanie Jones, Keegan Joyce, Amy Lehpamer, Tara Lyon, Summer Moore, Lachlan Neate, Jane Patterson, Greg Stone, Susan-ann Walker and Paul Watson.
It is a story of music, renewal, Dublin, the rediscovery of self-belief and the importance of friendship. Of course, there’s a good dose of wicked Irish humour and you really do feel you are in a Dublin pub – until the lights go up.
Once is on in Melbourne until February 8, 2015.