Good evening/afternoon readers! So today I want to talk about the hit new musical “Once.” Once takes place in Dublin, Ireland, (I’ve been there whoohoo!) and is the typical “boy-meets-girl” story except the boy has just had his heart broken by another girl, and the girl has been abandoned by her husband and forced to raise their 12 yr old daughter… Kind of heavy stuff, but as in all musicals, the heavy stuff doesn’t seem so heavy juxtaposed with the upbeat music and optimistic attitudes of everyone onstage.
I arrived probably 5 minutes before the show was about to begin, and as I took my seat (front row again, yes!) I realized all the actors were already onstage singing songs and playing instruments in what I would describe as “hoe-down” fashion; stomping their feet, and clapping their hands. The stage was decorated to look like an old Irish pub with a bar in the back center, but instead of pictures on the walls, there were mirrors of all shapes and sizes. These mirrors were a great addition to the set especially later in the play when characters would have solos with a spotlight turned on them. When this happened, I could see myself and the entire audience in the mirror and it almost felt like I was seeing the stage from the actor’s perspective (which, being an aspiring actor was obviously really exciting for me). With the different lighting techniques and the use of mirrors, the aesthetic effect it had on some of the performances was amazing.
Another element to this play I noticed almost immediately: every cast member was extremely talented at singing, and playing some sort of instrument. There were banjos, violins, cellos, guitars, and pianos all playing together live, which was a great thing to see and hear.
I noticed as well that the entire cast was on stage at all times. Some would help move props, but when they weren’t in the scene, they sat and stared intently at the action. Take it from me. This is no easy feat. I remember having to do it myself and almost falling asleep at some points towards the end of the show I was in. So, the fact that they were so present in the story, even while on the sidelines, was really impressive.
One reason why these actors were so avidly invested in the action is the fact that they had very subtle cues to pick up on. During some songs there were weird choreography/dance movements going on, sometimes all the characters moved simultaneously and sometimes they had different motions. Either way, the motions were not effective for me. I understand a need for more stimulation during slower songs (and this was a musical for crying out loud, they must have dancing!), but the choreography seemed amateurish and uninspiring. Other cues involved in songs had to do with musical cues where a violin would start its slow harmony with a singer. This was a really great part of the play because all of a sudden one of the dormant characters would start magnificently playing this great piece of music. And the music really was great. There’s a reason this play has won so many Tonys.
Something not really too much to do with the play itself but more to do with the experience is the fact that the bar on stage doubled as a real bar during admission! This may be a normal thing, but I certainly have never seen it, and I’ve been to a lot of theatres here! Very cool and a great added touch to a wonderful night out at the theatre. Honestly folks, this one is a must-see. If you like music, love, and having a good cry, this show is for you. Not exaggerating, the man next to me was openly weeping at the end. This one was truly a pleasure.
Till next time!