Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: 'Once' Musical Shines at the Jacobs Theatre

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)

Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti.
(all production photos: Joan Marcus)
There’s a bittersweet longing that pervades ‘Once’, the new musical now playing on Broadway and based on the 2006 feature film. That longing aches, breaks and moves the heart. This is one of the most beautiful musicals to come by in a long time.

I have to admit I was not a fan of the independently made movie. It felt drawn out and far too restrained. Reading that the audience at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre is invited on stage pre-show and at intermission to purchase drinks made the experience sound like it would be a mere novelty. It is not at all.

Cristin Milioti and Steve Kazee
Book writer Enda Walsh with director John Tiffany have adapted the screenplay by John Carney and given the story a sense of urgency without betraying its source material set in Dublin of two people who develop an unexpected relationship through music. Tiffany draws the audience immediately into ‘Once’ with a pre-show jam session by cast members.

Steve Kazee, known as Guy in the musical, plays an Irish musician who finds a collaborator in Cristi Milioti’s Girl, a Czech immigrant, over the course of one fateful week. They bring a complex world of weariness to their characters but also a sense of tremendous hope.

Kazee has proven he is leading man material only hinted at in the 2007 Broadway revival of ‘110 In The Shade.’ Manly, attractive and charming he conveys the character’s anguish in his musical numbers, most notably in “Leave” and “Say It To Me Now”. Guy is even given a piece of fun with the brief melody called “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy.”

Milioti’s role could have easily fallen into caricature but her gentle portrayal and convincing accent makes the character believable. She reveals a sorrow displayed in the songs “If You Want Me” and “The Hill.” The on stage chemistry between Kazee and Milioti is undeniable. Their portrayals are subtle but always engaging.

The show sounds like it could be a downer but Walsh has peppered the plot with enough comic relief and eccentric supporting characters to keep the audience from falling into a depression.

Cristin Milioti, Anne L. Nathan and Steve Kazee.
The cast of 'Once'
There is no orchestra. The entire cast plays a character and at least one instrument. Never coming across as a stunt, these cast members/musicians meld magnificently in music and movement in the act one closer “Gold” that swells into high spirits and sweeping musical staging.

Credit goes to Martin Lowe for orchestrations that reinvigorate the original songs from the film. Songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who played Guy and Girl in the movie, have contributed additional songs for the musical. If you fell in love with the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” you’ll find other treasures worth repeated listening in the score.

The entire musical takes place in a Dublin bar that spans the width of the stage with a back wall lined with frosted mirrors. The ingenious Bob Crowley has made a one-set destination that fulfills the multiple scene requirements and has the actors costumed appropriately to portray the Dublin bar crowd. One pivotal scene takes place above the bar to reveal a scene at night dotted with flickering starlight. By the way there are no subtitles when Czech is spoken except for a few words translated during this scene.

Seeing ‘Once’ is a transcendent experience that inspires us to overcome regrets. The unconventional love story, stirring music and dynamic casts merge in impeccable combination for a production that uplifts the soul.


  • Website:
  • Where: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
  • Location: 242 West 45th St
  • When: Tue 7pm; Wed-Sat 8pm; Wed & Sat 2pm; Sun 3pm
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 30 min
  • Ticket Prices: $60-$157 (premium $199.50-$252.00)
  • Opening: Mar 18, 2012 (previews Feb 28, 2012)
  • Closing: Open Ended
  • Book Online:
  • Ticket Services: 1-800-432-7250
  • Cast Recording: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
Steve Kazee and Paul Witty
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
Anne L. Nathan, Will Connolly, Cristin Milioti,
Elizabeth A. Davis and Lucas Paelias.
Paul Witty and Elizabeth A. Davis
Steve Kazee (center) and the cast of 'Once'.
The cast of 'Once'
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti
David Patrick Kelly and the cast of 'Once'.


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