Review: Once

5 star rating
Cracking performances all-round, from an outstanding cast of actor-musicians, combined with hauntingly novel songs and music, make for a consummate piece of musical theatre.
Once at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Image: Queen's Theatre Hornchurch



Closes here: Saturday 20 October 2018

Author:
Enda Walsh

Composer:
Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Lyricist:
Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

Director:
Peter Rowe

Cast:

Ex-Girlfriend - Rachel Dawson

Svec - Lloyd Gorman

Guy - Daniel Healy

Billy - Sean Kingsley

Girl - Emma Lucia

Bank Manager - Samuel Martin

Eamon - Caolan McCarthy

Emcee - Peter Mooney

Da - Peter Peverley

Reza - Kate Robson-Stuart

Baruska - Susannah van den Berg

Andrej - James William-Pattison

Ivonka:

Isobella Elora Anderson

Lily Jackson

Lily-Anne Wilkin


Synopsis


A guy, a girl and the song that brought them together.


Winner of eight Tony Awards® in 2012, including Best Musical, Once tells the unforgettable story of a Dublin street musician and a funny Czech woman, drawn together by their shared love of music.


As they assemble a band from her wild family and his quirky mates, the music flows and they fall slowly in love.


Once is about what happens when you take chances and go for your dreams.


Background


From the producers of Made in Dagenham, an ensemble of actor-musicians play their instruments live on stage, in a smash hit romantic show that steals your heart, based on the Academy Award-winning film.


Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Limited.


Queen's Theatre Hornchurch and the New Wolsey Ipswich present the UK regional premiere.


Trailer



ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Friday 5 October 2018
Review star rating image

Reviewing the West End production back in 2013, I was struck by the distinctive quality of the music in Once.


Though the score's overall theme seems to hinge around Irish folk music, there's also something strikingly different about the songs that is not easy to pigeon-hole precisely in terms of genre or style.


This Queen's Theatre Hornchurch/ New Wolsey production gives you the chance to judge the quality of the songs for yourself in a version which easily rivals the West End production I previously saw.


Once is a boy-meets-girl story - or rather it's a boy loses girl, then meets girl, then loses girl, then gets back with the girl he first lost, story!


Still with me?


Daniel Healy & Emma Lucia in Once at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

(From left) Daniel Healy, Emma Lucia - photo by Mike Kwasniak

Probably not, so let me try to clarify.


Essentially, the story centres on two young people.


The unnamed 'Guy' (played by Daniel Healy) is down in the dumps after his girl has gone off to live in New York.


Then he meets the unnamed 'Girl', who is rather pushy (in a nice way) and takes a fancy to Guy's music, as well as Guy too.


The only problem for Girl is that she's already hitched, though her marriage is going through a rocky patch.


So even though both Guy and Girl are attracted to each other, there's not really much going on between them in the romance department.


Most of the plot actually revolves around Girl helping Guy to produce samples of his music with the intention of flogging his work to a rich producer - the kind who wears a camel coat and pulls on log-like cigars (if that caricature still exists, that is).


In the West End production I saw, the audience had the chance to have a swift drink on stage with the actor-musicians before the start of the show and again during the interval.


Sadly, there's no such opportunity here.


But you don't really go to see Once for the chance to slake your thirst with a quick on-stage tipple.


Moreover, the storyline is almost incidental in terms of the overall experience.


Though the plot holds the show together ably enough, it's the haunting quality of the music and songs which sets it apart from the musical pack.


It must be a tough challenge to round-up a team of actor-musicians to play the wide range of instruments the show depends on, whilst also providing the necessary age-range required to meet the needs of the story.


Nevertheless, director Peter Rowe has managed to amass a hugely capable company who have all the required skills in abundance.


Daniel Healy provides an appropriately morose Guy, and his powerful yet emotive vocals are a real joy to hear.


Mr Healy gets impressive support from Emma Lucia as the seemingly pushy Girl who encourages Guy to get back to work on his music and get back with the girl he thought he'd lost.

Cast of Once on stage at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Cast of Once - photo by Mike Kwasniak


And the whole endeavour is suitably anchored in Libby Watson's splendid set design with an Irish pub interior as the main locational backdrop, and which itself has some neat tricks up its sleeve in order to create the outdoor locations and for the finale.


Even if it has a tendency to dawdle a touch during the more intimate scenes, Peter Rowe's production is nonetheless a consummate piece of musical theatre, bolstered by Francesca Jaynes' deftly-devised choreography, cracking performances all-round from an outstanding cast of actor-musicians, all combined with hauntingly novel songs and music.


Terrific stuff.



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