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Review of Once: an Irish busker and a young Czech girl

Ronan Keating in Once musical
Ronan Keating (Once The Musical) photo Hugo Glendinning)

Once, truly is a musical that stands head and shoulders above the rest and breaks many of the conventions of the genre of musical theatre. This daring musical tells a simple story of love and friendship through the universal language of music in the most effective and creative way possible.

Based on the highly popular film of the same name from 2007, written and directed by John Carney, Once is set in Dublin and focuses on the two main characters, a young Irish busker and a young Czech girl. The two have a chance encounter and a special bond is formed through their shared love of music, which takes them on an emotional journey.

Even before the first word is spoken or first song is sung, the audience are immersed into this world of celebration and music. As you enter the auditorium the audience are invited onto the stage to buy a drink from the bar (which is the set) and to listen to members of the cast sing and play their instruments. This is the perfect way to start an evening of pure quality musical theatre and is completely different to that of anything else on offer in the west end at the moment. This is a very effective way of making the audience feel relaxed and involved at the same time, having removed some of the barriers that are normally present when you go to the theatre creates a very informal atmosphere.

The songs in the show complement the story perfectly and are made even better by the talented cast of actor-musicians. The blend of Irish folk music, musical theatre and a slight influence of contemporary pop music gives each of the musical numbers a warm, joyful yet modern feel.  The entire cast perform, sing and play with such passion, energy and emotion that you cannot help make a connection to each and every number, whether you laugh, gasp or feel like crying. The central themes of love and friendship run throughout the entire show are balanced with regular intervals of comedy, offering comic relief at the most unexpected of times.

The relationship between Guy, played by Arthur Darvill and Girl, played by Zrina Cvitesic is truly a delight to watch. Theirs is not a conventional love story but certainly has the basic elements that make a true love story, their individual and dual performances are so slick and genuine it’s all too easy to forget it isn’t real. As an ensemble the entire cast work seamlessly with one another, creating a show that caters for all audience members, delivering nothing but top quality performances in each and every element of musical theatre.

Once is an original and revolutionary musical and after seeing it once, you will want to watch it again and again.

Review by Haydn James

Phoenix Theatre
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 3.00pm
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Age Restrictions: Children under the age of 4 are not permitted in the theatre.


  • Haydn James

    Haydn trained as an actor at Rose Bruford Drama School. He has worked nationally and internationally in theatre and as an actor and entertainer in some of London’s top tourist attractions. He is now training to be a drama and performing arts lecturer. Haydn has always had a passion and love for the theatre and enjoys watching as much theatre as possible. Follow on Twitter @HaydnJames82

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