The first thing you need to know about Once is that this is not a show you want to be late for. From the moment the auditorium opens up, audience members are welcome to climb up onto the stage and head straight to the stage bar where you can purchase drinks in a souvenir Once cup. Around fifteen minutes before the show begins there is a pre-show where audience members can enjoy their drinks in the company of some folk-music played by the cast on stage.
Once tells the story of an unlikely relationship between two strangers . Dublin born, Guy, who is currently being played by Boyzone's Ronan Keating and Czech young mother, Girl, played by Jill Winternitz, meet when she hears him sing and becomes intrigued by his music.
The show that brought out the award winning song 'Falling Slowly' is quite different to other West End musicals and it could be debated that this should actually be considered as a play with music instead. The songs are much more understated and there are no big extravagant dance routines but the show seems to have its own charm.
If you prefer folk music over your standard musical theatre music then you will love this show. The style of music does become a bit monotonous as all the songs are very similar in style. This is only broken by the banker's (currently played by Jaime Cameron) hilarious song 'Abandoned in Bandon' that the audience laughs and cheers for every night.
The changes in language are quite brilliantly displayed in a somewhat subverted use of subtitles. The actors, who perform the whole show in English are cleverly able to show the difference of when they speak in their native tongue and when they speak English just through their intonation.
The actors are totally responsible for scene transitions and do a brilliant job of fitting impressive choreography to show movements in scenes throughout the show, without the use of blackouts to help. Unfortunately the dance choreography often looked wooden and uncomfortable especially during songs such as 'Pada Pada' and 'Gold'.
Of course it is a great skill to be able to dance, sing and play and instrument simultaneously and the cast most definitely deserve credit for being so skilled. At times they looked like the struggled to dance and play their instruments at the same time.
The cast is made up of a fantastic group of actors but Billy who owns a small music shop, played by, Tim Prottey- Jones is really one to look out for with his fantastic comic timing and some of the shows best lines. Also Miria Parvin is an absolute joy to watch throughout the show. She has the rather small role of Ex-girlfriend but nevertheless often caught my attention throughout the performance.
The first act of the show is quite a sweet and funny story with some bizarre incidents and a relationship that develops unrealistically fast. The second act essentially loses all sense of humor and becomes suddenly quite serious and a tad tedious to watch. It is a pleasant show but once is most definitely enough*.
The show is playing at the phoenix theatre until March 21st
*I'd like to just say that I based my review on my first impression on the show after seeing it for the first time.