Wednesday, 13 November 2013


It is safe to say that I have been to see quite a few musicals. And, despite the fact that each one is very different in terms of stories and sets, the special effects and structure of each one runs in a similar vein to the rest. Therefore, I didn't think that much could surprise me any more. I was wrong. From the very beginning, Once proved to be totally unique and unlike anything that I had come across in the West End before.

For a start you were allowed up on to the stage -  which is every theatre addict's little dream. So of course, we took advantage and went up there to buy our pint at the fake yet real bar that was used as both a set and an actual bar. As we were doing so, the stars of the show came out and started playing together. As if it was a real Irish bar. In Ireland. But it wasn't. We were in London. At the theatre. Mind = blown. With all the actors, present already, the pre show rolled effortlessly into the start of the actual show without a big deal. A mere dimming of the lights and a brisk shooing of the audience from the stage and we were immediately thrown into the Irish world that encompassed Once. But to be honest, we had already been there for quite a while and this unique beginning gave the show such a realistic feel to it, that you felt a complete part of the action, rather than simply watching a spectacle in front of your eyes. It also helped that the leading lady, Zrinka Cvitešić, appeared on stage after walking through the audience, giving the impression that she was one of us.

This realistic feel remained throughout the whole production, as did the set itself, never changing from the bar scene at the beginning. There were very few props and lacked even an orchestra with the small cast (which was only made up of 15 people) accompanying themselves on the piano, accordion, ukulele, guitar, violin and drums. So if you have taken away the majority of things which make a musical great, the cast has to be superb, to make up for it. And luckily this one was. In particular, the two leads (Cvitešić and Declan Bennett who are billed simply as Guy and Girl) but everybody pulled their weight and proved their musical talent as well as their excellent acting abilities. They all led us on an emotional ride that just chucked you all over the place.

If you are looking for a massive, extravaganza of a showstopper, this musical is not for you. What you will get is an uncomplicated, unfrilly display of pure talent that will take your breath away. With fitting dialogue and truly beautiful singing, I was totally enthralled right up until the deeply unsatisfying (but elegant) end.

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