Once The Musical
Starring Arthur Darvill
Phoenix Theatre, London
The London production of the multiple Tony award-winning and Olivier award nominated production Once gets a new cast and there’s a familiar face from the world of Doctor Who in the crowd.
Based on an Irish indie film, Once is not your typical glitz and glamour, spectacle musical, in fact it’s not really a musical at all. The songs do not forward the story but act to punctuate the emotional low or high points throughout the piece. The story concerns a simple yet powerful story of Irish guy meets Czech girl, who helps him rekindle his love for music and rediscover life anew. It’s a truly heart warming tale that is all about facing your fears and proves that second chances really do exist.
It’s a wonderfully organic narrative that evolves and grows out of the Dublin Pub set. In a semi-Brechtian style the superbly talented actor-musician ensemble cast remain on stage throughout the piece and collectively tell the story as a cohesive group. As an audience we were invited to walk the stage before the show started, even buy drinks from the bar on the set and we were actually joined by the cast who warmed up with a few traditional Irish songs before we took our seats. This aside I felt the one thing that didn’t work as well as it could, was a lack of involving and engaging the audience further. The optional pre-show time on stage is a great opportunity to immerse oneself in the world of the show but the connection never goes further. This is of course not everyone’s cup of tea and isn’t the easiest to achieve in a west end theatre.
The cast are all incredibly talented musicians, singers and actors and even though there are two intentionally nameless protagonists in this piece, it is the named ensemble that fill the production with life and feeling.
Arthur Darvill (Rory Pond) is certainly a name to sell the show, but unlike other celeb-stars cast to flog seats, Darvill is perfectly cast and entirely suited to his part and the production itself. Having played the part before on Broadway, it was an obvious choice to invite back this truly multi-talented performer. One cannot help but fall desperately in love with Zrinka Cvitešić (pictured left) who plays the female lead. With her unwavering energy, confidence and positivity, I think she could inspire any would-be artist to succeed. I would also highlight Matthew Hamper as Andre, another Czech character on the search for employment progression in a land of opportunity. Hamper beautifully and believably portrays the poignant journey of this character. The whole cast act as one unit and there isn’t a weak link in the chain.
Once isn’t your average night at the theatre, it doesn’t conform to standard structures or stereotypes, it won’t change your life but if you give it a chance I believe you won’t be able to help but love it. Arthur Darvill is only appearing until May 10, so grab your tickets now and catch this great show before you miss the chance to see this beautifully moving story, wonderfully performed songs and one of the west end’s most talented casts.
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10