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03 July 2022  •  Society & Culture

You Only Need to Watch This 'Once' – A Review

'Once', the live musical, was based on the 2007 film of the same name by John Carney and is the only Broadway show with music that won an Academy Award®, Grammy Award®, Olivier Award and Tony Award® (including Best Musical).

By Clara Atkin
Content Warning: alcohol
You Only Need to Watch This 'Once' – A Review

Once, the live musical, was based on the 2007 film of the same name by John Carney and is the only Broadway show with music that won an Academy Award®, Grammy Award®, Olivier Award and Tony Award® (including Best Musical).

On Saturday 1 July, Sydney had just begun experiencing what would soon be known as an “extreme weather event” with Sydney and greater NSW experiencing a month's worth of rain, and then some, over just a few days.

Perhaps this dreary weather was fitting for my immersion experience as I dawdled down Oxford Street on my way to The Eternity Playhouse. Run by Darlinghurst Theatre Company, the 1887 quaint little heritage-listed building seats 200 people, has a very intimate waiting space that does not have enough tables or chairs to fit everyone if you arrive within ten-minutes you might have to make eye-contact with a few people as you look for a seat, eventually find your way near the foosball tables and then realise they are free and play while you wait. 

The bar was also open, extending the musical’s context (I promise I’ll start actually talking about the musical soon), offering Irish-themed drinks – both non alcoholic and alcoholic. I enjoyed the ‘Jameson and apple’ which used fresh green apples. 

Now let’s talk about the musical. 

Once, the live musical, was based on the 2007 film of the same name by John Carney and is the only Broadway show with music that won an Academy Award®, Grammy Award®, Olivier Award and Tony Award® (including Best Musical) (Darlinghurst Theatre Company, 2022) – so my expectations were quite high. 

This story was a classic Guy meets Girl, but it truly felt more real – it wasn’t a magical recount of a fantastical love, there were no crazy makeovers, or miscommunications leading to betrayal. Essentially: Struggling Irish ‘Guy’ (literally his character name) plays his guitar on the streets of Dublin, deciding to give up on music completely, when a piano-playing Czech ‘Girl’ (also her character name) walks up to him and ultimately reminds him how to dream. A friendship and eventually a tender love begins to bloom as Girl’s passion and love for and view on life rubs off on Guy. 

The ending for me was perfect. It was real. To me it was reminiscent of texts like the film Begin Again (2013), La La Land (2016) and the written works of Sally Rooney – despite all of these texts being produced after Once…so perhaps these texts are actually reminiscent of Once. 

What was phenomenal about this musical was that the entire score is performed by all the actors themselves – and there is no sheet music in sight. The small cast all played their own instruments on stage and very close to the audience – a violinist in roller blades, an accordion-player on tables, a moving piano, a violinist on Guy’s shoulders. Just as the story was intriguing the music and overall performance from all the actors was just outstanding. The music itself is pop, folk and dance music (think of that scene where Rapunzel is dancing in the town with all the people in Tangled (2010)). 

(Production Photo by Robert Catto)

The use of lighting and the small space was incredible. There were moments where translations were projected above the actors and when the audience was transformed into an ocean with soft blue lighting. Seeing the small space be utilised so well was its own performance. 

The only thing I would say is that some of the songs, especially the beginnings, sound quite repetitive and at some points actors put on Irish accents that are quite strong. 

The performance season has been extended (as it is incredibly popular, but in a small theatre) and I highly recommend it. 

Rating: Distinction

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