Review: Once, the musical - an intimate, simple story with moments of great humour
Once, the musical - adapted from the John Carney film of the same name - is a global phenomenon whose reach has extended to South Korea as well as Broadway and the West End.
It had a limited two-week run in the city it’s set, Dublin, in 2013, but that was essentially a warm-up for London; this is a proper six-week residency.
It’s all a far cry from the big-budget, bells and whistles spectaculars that usually vie for attention.
Instead, it’s intimate, simple story featuring 12 actors who provide all the music and movement too. Tom Parsons plays a struggling, down-on-his luck busker whose world is changed by an encounter with a spirited Czech musician (Megan Riordan).
Enda Walsh’s adaptation develops what was quite a slight story in the movie and it’s shot through with moments of great humour - not least a scene featuring Girl’s family and their obsession with Fair City.
Riordan gives a delightful performance, not far off the brilliance Zrinka Cviteši brought to the role in 2013 (she would go on to win a Laurence Olivier award for the West End production), while Parsons displays a certain kooky charm as the shy and awkward Guy even though the English actor’s Dublin accent is, frankly, all over the place.
A universal story it may be, but as the story is rooted in Ireland his inability to nail an authentic patois is jarring, especially in its home town.
Elsewhere, Phelim Drew really revels in his role as the belligerent, but kind-hearted Billy, throwing himself into a visceral part with abandon, and Jamie Cameron generates lots of laughs as the hapless bank manager who also dreams of being a working musician.
The songs, originally written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - who starred in the film - remain a big part of the draw for Once and are delivered faithfully, but not always beautifully.