Once: at the Paramount

It would be a shame to boil Once down to the label of “romantic comedy”, though there is a beautiful, star-crossed romance and certainly many comedic elements to it. I think a more-deserved label would be a “music’s musical.” Once is centered on an unnamed Irish musician (“Guy”) whose life is “stopped” as he has a deep desire to play music, but makes his living fixing vacuum cleaners. He meets a quirky, charming unnamed Czech musician (“Girl”) who hears him play a song he wrote in a pub in Dublin. She is thoroughly impressed and intrigued by his musical talent and encourages him to pursue music more seriously.

Each song performed in the play is actually a song performed in the play, unlike most musicals where the music propels the plot forward, forcing the audience to extend their belief that the characters within the production live in a world where breaking out in song to express thoughts and feelings is perfectly acceptable. (I, of course, am not saying that I would find it unacceptable. I would be quite accepting of such a place.) Most songs are performed within the context of an Irish pub or a music shop just down the street.

Having seen Once performed in London as well, I have to admit that I was just as impressed, if not more, with the production of the cast that performed at the Paramount. Guy, played by Stuart Ward, was an incredibly talented vocalist, as was Girl, played by Dani de Waal, and both had a charming stage presence and believable chemistry. Both had hilarious timing. Benjamin Magnuson and Matt DeAngelis certainly had the audience laughing as well. The story seems to translate more beautifully on stage than it did from its low-budget, indie film origins featuring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Neither of them were actors so some of the acting is awkward to watch, but the incredible music they wrote and recorded certainly made up for it.

Though Once is no longer currently running at the Paramount, I recommend trying to see it if it ever comes back. Get to the theatre early, so you are able to wander up on stage to get a drink. The stage is also opened up as a pub for drinks during intermission, but the pre-show involves music where the cast is playing their various folky instruments while people get settled into their seats. You’ll be sure to feel like a groupie, in the most magical way possible. I enthusiastically recommend going to see this musical, particularly if you are a fan of beautiful folk music. You will not be disappointed.

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