Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr.
et al., Robert Cole, Exec. Producer
in association with
New York Theatre Workshop
Book by Enda Walsh
Music & Lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová
Based on the motion picture by John Carney
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
Directed by John Tiffany
Bernard R. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street
With: David Abeles, Will Connolly, Elizabeth A. Davis,
David Patrick Kelly, Anne L. Nathan, Lucas Papaelias,
Ripley Sobo, Andy Taylor, McKayla Twiggs, Erikka Walsh,
Paul Whitty, J. Michael Zygo
Scenic and Costume Design: Bob Crowley
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: Clive Goodwin
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA/Stephen Kopel
Production Stage Manager: Bess Marie Glorioso
Production Manager: Aurora Productions
Company Manager: Lisa M. Poyer
Music Supervisor and Orchestrations: Martin Lowe
Movement by Steven Hoggett
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 22, 2012
Once, a new Broadway musical, transplanted from Off-Broadway to the big stage, starts out like a 60’s hootenanny, with musicians, dancers, harmonica, violins, piano, and an ensemble of more musicians and dancers, all onstage with those audience members who arrived early. No fancy set or dark curtain to gaze at, instead a pre-show that’s actually an overture. The first act begins as the pre-show slows down, and a young Irish lad meets a young Czech lass in Dublin, a simple enough theme, but there ends the simplicity. In a kind of beer hall setting, an ensemble of 14 actors/singers/dancers also perform on guitar, piano, harmonica, cajón, ukulele, mandolin, violin, cello, drums, accordion, and more. This is, again, a simple story, boy meets girl, girl is married and has a child, marriage is unhappy, girl wants to leave unhappy for happy, but can’t leave unfinished love, girl has a mother, too, whom she misses, boy waits for good news. Yes, this is ingénue; no, this is not uncomplicated. The lead character, Girl, is Cristin Milioti, who would be the peasant girl, Giselle, had this been ballet. The other lead character, Guy, is Steve Kazee, who’s also rough on the edges, but very in love.
Guy writes folk-rock songs and plays guitar, while Girl transcribes them for piano and writes the lyrics. And, “Falling Slowly”, “If You Want Me”, and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” ensue from this very busy stage. There’s no offstage. Whichever musicians or characters are not in the spotlight are, instead, sitting side stage. The audience feels like it’s at a club, with a strand or two of a story, mixed with spoken words and lyrics, dance on stage or tables, and scintillating music on strings, piano, or percussion. By intermission, you long for Guy and Girl to go off into the sunset together, piano and guitar following, but the plot seems secondary to the musical gestalt. When I left, no tunes were humming in my head, but the overall musicality of the event lingered for days. Romanticism can take many forms, in visual art, in dance, in poetry, in drama, in chamber music, to mention a few aesthetic sources for emotional stage presentation, but, on leaving Once, I was left with a sense of Romanticism in the abstract. This production combines the art forms and thematic threads as one, a lovely silken fabric. John Tiffany has directed Enda Walsh’s book and Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s music and lyrics to create an artistic event that satisfies on every level, emotional, spiritual, visual, auditory, and psychic. One is transported in time and place.
Steve Kazee as Guy is charming, humble, and transparent as actor and musician. Cristin Milioti as Girl draws the eye and captivates the imagination with her sense of innocence, natural beauty, and inner strength. The ensemble of characters takes turns in minor theatrical skits and major musical riffs. Clive Goodwin’s sound design perfects the musical ensemble, and, at times, I heard music that seemed to span Argentinean, American, and Eastern and Western European motifs. There’s no real choreography, so to speak, but “movement” is credited to Steven Hoggett. Dance is quite improvisational and blends into the musical momentum. Martin Lowe is credited with music supervision and orchestrations, and the solo and ensemble musical experience was exceptional. Bob Crowley created the set and costumes, both of which drew the eye center stage, during each small or group vignette. I’ve never seen John Carney’s film, on which the show is based, but I’ll look for it. Nor, did I see this production in its original form at New York Theatre Workshop. This show would be riveting on the small stage, close-up, with so many fine musicians encircling the rapturous story. I hope it finds its way to stages small and large, after its expected long Broadway run. Kudos to all.