- CHARITY BENEFIT
There are shows you see that touch you so deeply because their message is simple and the heart of the show is so apparent. This is the case with the enchanting musical “Once,” at the New York Theatre Workshop. Based on the Irish movie of the same name by writer and director John Carney, the songs and original actors who feel in love in real life were Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The movie won an Oscar. I did not see the film, but this show has so much appeal as soon as I get the time, the movie will be on my list to rent.
The story is basic, a Dublin guy is about to give up on music and his life. Enter a Czech girl who inspires him as he fixes her vacuum cleaner. They make music together in real life and with chemistry but their love is not destined to be as they are only in this life to help inspire each other’s creativity.
Playwright Enda Walsh’s script keeps the simplicity emotional and I recommend a box of Kleenex and a bottle of water. The direction by John Tiffany is seamless and if I had to make a list of the top directors this year, he would be in my top two. The cast lead by Guy, played by Steve Kazee, is a musical theatre star to watch. Handsome, winning with a voice that melts butter, you long for his survival and want him to transcend what has befallen him. As Girl, Cristin Milioti is a kooky waif that is so ethereal in the beginning you think she is an angel; kudos to the script that she wasn’t. When she sits at the piano playing and singing, you realize this is a tortured soul who escapes and shares her pain through her music. Cristin Milioti is not beautiful and, at first, you wonder why Guy would fall for her, but beauty is beyond skin deep and, like Guy, we too fall for her.
Since the show is a lot about music “Once” breaks into music, often. Though not a typical musical theatre score, the songs by Mr. Hansard and Ms. Irglova are rough, haunting melancholy and heart wrenching. “Falling Slowly,” won the Academy Award for best song.
Steven Hoggett’s choreography is minimal but is put to good use combining with Tiffany’s direction to create a complete look. Bob Crowley’s set is minimal. Using mirrors to create a pub, where everything is reflected, makes a bold statement perfect for the show’s intent.
The supporting characters; Billy (Paul Whitty), a piano store owner, bank manager (Andy Taylor), the girl’s mother Baruska (Anne L. Nathan), girl’s Czech roommates (Will Connolly, Elizabeth A. Davis (also girl’s best friend) and Lucas Papaelias), Claire Candela as the ex-girl-friend, David Patrick Kelly, Erikka Walsh and J. Michael Zygo are all a find. What John Doyle has been trying to create with actors/singers/dancers also being first rate caliber musicians comes across here. They are all first rate, at all they do and the sound and look is breathtaking.
“Once,” is moving to Broadway and this show, that so innocently shows us that we are put into others’ lives not always for the reasons we want or think, is a show you will be yearning to see more than once. I know I do.
New York Theater Workshop, 79 East Fourth Street, East Village; Through Jan. 15th . Moving to Broadway in 2012
WITH: David Abeles (Eamon), Claire Candela (Ivona), Will Connolly (Andrej), Elizabeth A. Davis (Reza), Steve Kazee (Guy), David Patrick Kelly (Da), Cristin Milioti (Girl), Anne L. Nathan (Baruska), Lucas Papaelias (Svec), Andy Taylor (Bank Manager), Erikka Walsh (Ex-Girlfriend), Paul Whitty (Billy) and J. Michael Zygo (Emcee).