A Broadway and West End hit musical that’s a ravishing love story with a bittersweet difference, Once casts a spell over the audience just as its two lead characters cast a spell over each other.
Based on a cult 2006 Irish indie feature, originally shot on a micro-budget of just $160,000, it tells the uplifting yet yearning story of a part-time Dublin guitarist busker (who works by day in his dad’s Hoover repair shop) who falls unexpectedly in love with a young Czech immigrant fellow musician. As we follow their relationship across five short days, big changes happen to both of them in little ways.
As conjured by a score of original Irish-inflected songs, written by the original stars of the film Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, the atmosphere is partly a busked concert and partly an aching romance that feels both spontaneous and freshly minted. The music, played live by the actors themselves, is alternately beautiful and rousing, and Enda Walsh’s script quietly overwhelms with its sense of spirit, sincerity and solitude.
There’s no other show quite like it. It’s the most unusual, unique and affecting musical you’re ever likely to see. It has a spontaneous free-form improvisatory vitality, yet it is also emotionally precise in the understated air of longing that anyone who has ever been in love will recognise instantly.
And audiences will fall head over heels in love with the show, too. Once is a genuine one-off which you’ll need to see at least once—but it’s also unlikely to be your last time, as you’ll want to see it again (and again).
Age guidance 10+