Once The Musical: Review

Once the musical brings to life the passion and energy of Glen Hansard’s music from the 2006 film of the same name. If you are a fan of the movie you need to go and see this show. If you have never seen the film you need to watch it, then go see the show.

The film was shot on the streets of Dublin on a shoe string budget, telling the story of a struggling songwriter trying to make ends meet. The plot quickly develops into a romance when Markéta Irglová enters the songwriter’s (Glen Hansard’s) life over a chance encounter with a hoover (if your face is making the WTF expression, just watch it). The film’s original song writing and charm made it a classic and it was recognised with an Oscar for best original song in 2007.

It was always going to be a challenge to bring such a loved movie to the stage and not fall short of fans expectations, but from the moment you enter the Phoenix theatre you realise that this is not an attempt to recreate the film in some kind of live musical version. It’s something altogether very different, not unlike walking into your favourite Irish bar on a Thursday night; not too busy and full of drunks like a Friday, but just the right level of atmosphere with the band warming up in the corner. And that’s exactly what happens, as you walk in and take your seat the entire cast are actually onstage warming up and jamming. You can even walk onto the stage and buy yourself a beer or a glass of wine! Of course you don’t realise these are the cast until the show begins, so you simply assume that it’s a bit of a hodgepodge affair with the house band getting in some last minute tuning before curtains up. The actual cast take turns to belt out Celtic classics and welcome you into their world, a small Irish pub in which the rest of the show will take place. You see, this story is not about vast sprawling settings or big budget visual effects; it’s about the characters, it’s about the music and most importantly it is about love. 

Declan Bennett and Zrinka Cvitešić are both excellent in bringing their own take on the main roles. You buy into Declan wholeheartedly as the struggling songwriter trying to find his place in the world, a quick Wikipedia stalking will tell you this is exactly who he is in reality. This is an excellent bit of casting and it makes the show as strong as it is. You don’t just hear cover versions of the original soundtrack, you are given something new with every song.

If you like folk music or enjoyed the film, take your partner, have a couple of drinks in the bar over the road first and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

‘Once: The Musical’ is now showing at the Phoenix theatre.