Dee Discusses: Once the Musical

Posted: June 26, 2014 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Musicals
Tags: , , , , , ,

I love musical theater. I’ve seen a lot of major Broadway musicals over the years, and my parents cultivated my interest early on. I was little when I saw Cats for the first time and made them take me again. As I grew up I added other favorites, and whenever we went to New York we’d get a special surprise of going to a real show. That’s true now. A few months ago my parents took me to Once, and I knew very little about the play itself. I never saw the movie, and I don’t listen to the radio much, so “Falling Softly” wasn’t a tune I knew. I saw the movie afterward, but I’ll get into why I think the musical worked better for me later on. All I know is that being in a theater, preparing to see a live show, it’s endlessly exciting to me. I don’t care if I’m seeing The Lion King or Evil Dead The Musical: I’m there to have a great time. The history of Once is that it started as a personal project from Irish writer/director John Carney. It’s a story of bittersweet romance, the reality of life, and the inspiration of music. The movie had live performances of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who had excellent on-screen chemistry, and it became the little Indie movie that could when it was nominated (and won) Best Song in the 2007 Academy Awards. It isn’t a surprise to me that this movie had a natural progression to the stage. It feels like it was made to be a part of musical theater, and it won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. So I was excited to see it, and I went in knowing nothing. We went to the Boston Opera House with the current touring cast, who were all fabulous by the way.

The plot is about Guy and Girl, they have no real names, and he’s an Irish singer who fixes vacuum cleaners at his father’s shop. On the side he plays his music with a guitar on the streets, and his Orpheus-like raw skill draws the attention of a Czech Girl. She approaches him after he sings a powerful and painful piece (“Leave”) and starts asking personal questions. The two of them banter and he slowly finds himself opening up about his current heart ache, since his girlfriend chose to move to the USA. He feels stuck in Ireland but decided not to follow her. The Girl is an excellent pianist and she agrees to play music for him in exchange for him fixing her vacuum cleaner. They find they have instant musical chemistry when they play his song “Falling Softly.” He hits on her one night and she immediately shuts it down, leading him to apologize and pursue a friendship – and musical partnership – with her. She reveals she has a daughter, and her husband the father left some time ago. They are both stuck in this place where they are still in love with their missing partners, but unsure if they want to move on or find a way to fix it instead.

Meanwhile the Girl encourages the Guy to work on his music more and manages to come up with the money to get him to record his music. They provide the band from their friends and while playing in the studio, they impress the jaded man working there. While listening to him sing “Gold” in public, the Girl recognizes that it’s possible he is singing to her now, instead of his ex-girlfriend. They are growing close, and she recognizes her own yearning for him in “The Hill.” Upset, she says it can’t be about romance for them, and she wants to give her marriage another chance. She tells him to go to New York and look for his ex-girlfriend, to see if they have a chance to try again. The two separate after their music’s success and he buys her the piano she’s been playing on at the shop. The play ends on a bittersweet and open note; Guy and Girl may meet again some day, or they may never see one another again. The point is that they made a profound difference in each other’s lives and will always have the music to remember it by.

So a long time ago I learned how to play the piano, and I loved it. I was young and I didn’t want to perform in any school competitions, so I quit. After seeing this musical, I kept going “I wish I could play that on the piano” and then went “why can’t you?” I bought myself a digital keyboard and I’ve been trying to rediscover my love for it. I think there is something incredibly magnetic about this play. What I loved about it was the sheer power of being in that room with the actors playing their instruments live. They don’t have an instrumental, they are the musicians. They carry their instruments and play them live while acting their roles. It’s intense and it’s beautiful and in my show they played so strongly that one of his strings popped right off. You believe that this Guy has the sort of voice that causes people to stop in their tracks, because you experience it for yourself, it’s not an informed talent. It’s a fun and clever story, and the musical has less to work with than the movie, where they could move locations and have dialogue that’s more natural. But it works. I think ultimately what made me enjoy the stage show more than the movie was exactly that: it’s powerful when you’re experiencing it in person.

I think there’s a lot of cookie cutter plots out there and I was surprised that it didn’t end the way I expected. In the best possible sense. The truth is we don’t know how the story ends, because there’s no real ending to it. And the ending doesn’t matter as much as the journey. That’s what I took from the play and I think it’s a lovely message. I highly recommend this soundtrack and if you get a chance to see the play, definitely do. Especially anyone who enjoys musical theater. I honestly don’t have any criticisms I can think of. The chemistry was perfect with the cast, even the songs I didn’t love were fun to listen to. Also, if you go to a live show they let you up on the stage during the half time and let you buy booze right there at the “fake” bar. The movie is also good if you’re interested in seeing it, but for me it was all about the play.

  1. […] I reviewed this play earlier in the year, and it was the first time I saw it. I’ve become obsessed since. Obviously, considering it hit my top ten almost immediately. Without a doubt this was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had, in terms of the actual music side. They all play their own instruments on stage, and it’s set in a pub that you can actually go up to and get drinks from. Amazing. The music is extremely powerful because they’re just wailing on their instruments when they get into a scene. All of them are incredibly talented, and the play itself is about music. About how through music the heart is revealed, and the main character Guy is inspired by a stranger to fight for his work again. And not to let go of the love he lost not long before. Guy and Girl establish a connection of their own, but they are too tied to the past and need to resolve that, saying goodbye to each other by the end. But irrevocably changed by the other. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this play. I wish I could see it again immediately. I’ll have to live with the soundtrack instead. My favorite song of the play is “Leave,” although I put the video of “Gold” from the Tony Awards above, because I think it has the best example of what it’s like to watch live. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s