Ok so I’ll be honest… Once the musical may not go down in history as one of the greatest musicals ever written… but this musical opened up my heart as well as my eyes to a unique kind of musical theatre. A show that involved a cast that also served as an orchestra, with live music performed by the actors themselves, with instruments on stage! It is a show that involved what I would consider the struggle of playing an instrument AND dancing at the same time…not something I could even attempt!
As well as, a show that keeps a simple story, dramatic and derived, from all the action of the wonderfully written music by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The minimalist set of what primarily looked like a bar, was not an issue with all that was happening in the music, which is something that I surprisingly loved (since I am usually all about the set, props, costumes, and technology that go into a show). But what I really got into was the music. The music of Once the musical is not so much classical at all like most musicals, rather it is Irish folk, modern music. This may not be everyone’s style I understand, but if you give the music a listen you will be pleasantly surprised. The songs had a great dynamic aspect to them… drifting from soft and lonely to strong and powerful. A song would start with just a voice and a single guitar, and end with 6 voices, violins, and multiple guitars. This is totally a style that I felt in all the chills I got, and the vibrations I felt pulsing through me and really just lifting me up to life. And maybe not just me…I noticed after the 1st act during intermission, the musical’s soundtrack CD’s that were being sold were flying off the shelf, which didn’t surprise me because this unique music was full of energy and emotion. The music made me adore the violin as well as the guitar and how they were both played. Coming from a guitarist, (and I am sure many other musicians in the audience)…we all saw the great talent that went into the live music while acting. Which brings up a thought to me that maybe all musicians are actors in the way they portray previous emotions and versions of themselves within their songs (just a thought!). Anyway…
The story itself is the farthest thing from complex. In short-an Irish musician falls in love with a Czech young lady visiting Dublin, who inspires and motivates the man’s music. Their complicated love relationship proves that love may not always find a way in the end, but the little things-like music can keep people together despite distance and complication…or that’s what I got out of it anyway. The story was not groundbreaking but I enjoyed the ending and how it was up to the audience to decide the two’s fate. It wasn’t a typical love story which is something I greatly appreciate (I’ve had enough of that bull!). It was more relatable and realistic which made it all the more heart-felt. I really did enjoy this musical and it sparked my interest in Irish culture as well as creativity in general. If you don’t have the opportunity to see Once I would recommend you give the soundtrack a listen and tell me what you think:)
“The North Strand” was used as a transition song between set changes that ended up working really nicely. “Leave” is one of the more emotional songs that I enjoyed. “Falling Slowly” is the most famous song that is reprised throughout the show. It is a wonderfully written song. “The Moon” is another slow one, that has those beautiful harmonies that you can really emotionally feel. “Say It to Me Now” is a song that really captures loves aggression and desperation and is one song that really got to me. “The Hill” is a stunning song, sung from the perspective of the heartbroken women watching her man leave-you can’t tell me you aren’t at least tempted to shed a tear hearing this song.
ANYWAY…AS YOU CAN TELL I have gone on quite a bit about the music in Once. Quite a bit more than the story or acting. Which brings up the question: what’s a musical really about: the music or the story?
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copyright: Carly Ristuccia
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