March 23, 2012
Two star crashed lovers stir audiences with their music in the huge-hearted musical “Once.” The terrifically appealing leads score big due to their automatic connection with each other and the audience.
Always a reason to cheer when an original production swims upstream to Broadway, “Once” shines in the arms of a tuneful pop score by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, leavened with Irish folk music and soft jazz contours, skillfully orchestrated by Marin Lowe. Joyous music rolls off the stage where a group of casually dressed musicians romp inside a Dublin pub designed by Bob Crowley. Stocked with dark wood tables, chairs, bar and piano, a gallery of antiqued mirrors rim the walls reflecting shards of cast members—particularly useful to those sitting on the far side of the theater.
Prepared to turn his back on a music career and girlfriend, the attractive Dubliner, Guy, falls in love with the pixyish Czech girl Cristin Milioti and her “must do” attitude. After she hears Guy play the guitar and sing “Leave,” Milioti insists he fix her Hoover vacuum (he’s in the business with his father, David Patrick Kelly).
All the cast members double as actors, singers and musicians, kicking up political and social issues including a nod to the 99% vs. the 1%. Movement passages by Steve Hoggett are cast in the vein of Bill T. Jones’ choreography for “Spring Awakening,” where gestural phrases issue from pedestrian movements--but the “dancing” in “Once” works best when the cast plays instruments and moves naturally.
A defining rhythm pumps the music and theatrical direction by John Tiffany, who understands the essence of pauses and silence, expertly deploying deep, theatrical breaths to generate superb comic and dramatic timing.
Most of all, this is a deeply felt love story. Thankfully, the end is not predictable, although it is inevitable.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis