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Once The Musical

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by Jen (subscribe)
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once the musical in australia review, community event, fun things to do, theatre, performing arts, night life, date night, actors, musical
Images - Darlinghurst Theatre Company

Opening Nights (Tue 9 May 2023) are always exciting with a show of Australian celebrities dotting the real estate of the Comedy Theatre at 240 Exhibition Street in the CBD. Casey Donovan (singer/songwriter/actor), Simon Toohey (MasterChef contestant & zero waste chef), Nina Ferro (singer/songwriter), Sammy J (musical comedian) to name a mere few of the many I spotted, and the young guns of television shows I probably didn't recognise. You can't really get a bad seat in the stalls as the theatre is not that huge, and as a person who generally never buys tickets to a theatre show further than 5 rows away in stalls from the stage, it wasn't too bad at all sitting in K row, 11 rows from the stage.

Based on John Carney's Academy Award-winning movie of the same name, Once features a book by Enda Walsh and music & lyrics by Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová. It is the only Broadway show with music that has won an Academy Award®, Grammy Award®, Olivier Award and Tony Award® (including Best Musical), and you'll understand why when you see and hear the talent on stage. Presented by the Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Once is set on the streets of Dublin. It's a tender and achingly gorgeous love story of connections that ignites and inspires us to reach for our dreams, and the power of music to connect us all.

A struggling Irish musician who is ready to throw in the towel, Guy (Toby Francis) leaves his guitar on the ground after playing it, ready to walk away when from the far corners of the dark, a voice calls out and starts talking to him. Eventually, a young Czech woman, Girl, (Stefanie Caccamo) who is also a musician and plays the piano emerges into the light, and she's very interested in his original music. She questions and challenges him from the moment they meet in her culturally unique way that is as charming, as it is naturally hilarious. She's bold, won't take 'no' for an answer, and keeps him engaged in such a way, escape seems impossible. Both are struggling with affairs of the heart. Guy is heartbroken and Girl has a complicated life and a broken vacuum cleaner. Guy works at repairing 'Hoovers' with his Da (Jay Laga'aia) hoping for his big break. Girl works in a piano shop and plays them, given the chance.

Eventually, having caught Guy's interest with her exuberance for life, they collaborate, with Girl creating opportunities for Guy to fulfil his dreams. Music is one uncomplicated way for them to connect.

A full theatre buzzing with atmosphere, a stage filled with heart-stopping music and joyous performances, and a story that goes deeper than expected that's achingly beautiful; Once ticks all the boxes and adds a huge dollop of unexpected, uncontrived humour on top that had the whole audience laughing hard, to fill our hearts even more. A few of the performers (I counted four, there could have been 5) playing the guitars, violins, and an accordion, come off stage and interact with the audience before showtime, playing their instruments and entertaining you. We were lucky to have the multi-instrumentalist (as we found out later on stage) Victoria Falconer and her accordion front up to our seats, chatting, engaging, playing for us and taking requests. She stopped for a lot longer than expected, her personality shining out of her every pore, which was even more unrestrained on stage. I digress when I say she was delightful to watch, her unbridled talent on show as she plays the guitar, and the piano and drew the most melodic, haunting sounds I've ever heard a 'saw' produce (and I've heard the Kransky Sisters and a musician friend play it) when she played it like a violin.

I treasured every moment she played that 'saw' because in her hands it produced a sound that caught your ear, and your attention, and eclipsed the other instruments as you could only concentrate on that saw that speaks to the depth of your soul. Sounds dramatic I know, but music does have the power to move!

once the musical in australia review, community event, fun things to do, theatre, performing arts, night life, date night, actors, musical
Victoria Falconer entertaining us up close and personal. This image & below - Writers Own

The huge stage was simply set, the background lighting subdued yet highlighting what was necessary, and pieces of furniture were moved around as required. The piano becoming a bar, a workshop counter and so on; the power of lighting spotlighting sections of the stage, it set all the scenes required to tell the story successfully. The colours and layers came from the performers that were imbued with characters and personalities they owned and made memorable - you could not help but adore each one for their unique, distinct persona on stage. Guy was broody, talented musically and vocally; just the kind of Guy you could fall in love with. Girl with equal musical talent and vocals that soared was funny, irrepressible and so direct, yet subtle, she's the kind of Girl you'd want in your life. The bank manager with guitar skills and a singing style that wasn't going to fly was adorable. The overly enthusiastic and heavy-handed heavy metal drummer and coffee addict who loved to wear his acquired Irish accent was a surprising delight and gave the audience an added injection of humour along with the 'bank manager' and the piano shop owner, who was punching above his weight and had his own conflicted ideas.

Overall you cannot deny the talent on stage - musicians who performed the songs flawlessly. Choreography that had them enthusiastically dancing and weaving in and out of each other and moving in perfect unison. Once was engaging for every millisecond it was on stage. It had everything; loads of humour, oodles of heart, unrequited love, music and performances that soared, and amidst it all, a story that had depth and restrained love, that may leave you with a bit of a heartache in conclusion. However there's music to salve the soul and performances that'll delight and entertain, so get out there and grab yourself a ticket for a night of fantastic live performances that soar, before you're sorry you missed it with last performances on the 4th of June. Grab your crew, your date, and your family. Everyone needs to experience Once, so get out there and treat yourself to a huge dose of memorable entertainment that ticks all the boxes.

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*Jen was invited as a guest
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Why? Once The Musical - Review
When: 10 May to 4 June 2023
Where: Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition St, Melbourne, VIC
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