I didn’t want to say anything. Our professor told the group that the musical “Once,” based on a movie I’d seen years before, was simply a love story between two people that met at an Irish pub. As we strolled into the theater, and as we were all swept away by the raucous folk music coming from the cast’s pre-show performance, I decided it was best to let my fellow travelers enjoy the fun while it lasted.
The musical itself was endearing and heartfelt, full of comedic moments between its Czech and Irish characters as well as bursting with lively vocal performances. However, it was the
musical’s quiet moments, such as a full-cast a capella performance in the second act, that proved “Once” truly was worthy of its 2012 Tony for Best Musical. When the musical came to and end, there were plenty of sniffles coming from our row. Our group walked from the theater feeling, in the purest sense of the word, bittersweet. We went through every emotion, from laughing over the musical’s sense of humor to craving a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Even though I knew the musical’s ending, I was especially struck by the performance’s interactive nature. During intermission, the fictional Dublin pub actually opened for business. Audience members milled around onstage, sipping beer or eating snacks from the set. Also, the characters never really broke into song out of the blue, as it traditional for musicals. Instead, they performed for each other. And because the entire cast stayed onstage for the musical’s duration, they seemed like the true audience. All in all, it was easy to forget that the characters, settings, and plot lines weren’t reality. Perhaps that’s what made the ending so difficult.
I won’t give away any spoilers about the story. Instead, I would recommend that you see this musical as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The characters are dynamic, the use of lighting is both clever and effective, and the music will stay with you. I would recommend, though, that you keep some ice cream nearby.