At its core, Once is a love at first sight story. It is molded and blended to come across differently, but the narrative is a simple love story.
The play, based on the book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová tells of an Irish musician (Stuart Ward) who meets a Czech girl (Dani de Waal) almost against his will. He has given up on creating music, but she convinces him to stop putting his life on hold for the woman that broke his heart, and fly to New York to see this woman again. She also has a child and a relationship with her husband that is turbulent.
Written out, the story sounds pretty flat. And admittedly, the dialogue ranges from charming to drab throughout the play. What makes Once more than just a boring love story is the music. The lyrics are raw and the music is lovely. It all involves multiple instruments that are played on stage, a cello, a banjo, a violin, a piano and many guitars. The music and singing on stage, combined with the quick transitions gives the play its charm. Musicians sit on the sides of the stage and play music, rounding out the story. They jump in and out as characters in the story, but it’s the music of Once that makes the story rich. The cast on stage portray their characters quite strongly, but their singing and musical skills really shine.
You can then ignore the fact that the characters of the story meet and fall in love in the span of five days. You can ignore the fact that the girl makes large, overarching assumptions about the guy’s love life and he just goes along with it. You can just listen to the lovely music and believe in the power of love.
Broadway Across Canada’s production of Once runs until November 8th. More information is available online.
Photo Credit: Joan Markus