I recently was privileged to see the musical Once at the Temple Buell Theatre. Once is the musical based on the 2006 movie of the same name. It has all the same songs, or at least so says the info in the program. I haven't seen the film which was loved by critics and audience. I also have to admit, until seeing it presented at the Tony's, I had never heard of the musical, and until seeing it live, I didn't know there was a movie.
The plot is a simple one. An Irish folksinger and vacuum cleaner repairman ((Stuart Ward) meets a Czech immigrant and piano playing flower girl (Dani de Waal). She convinces the struggling singer that he must make demo album of his beautiful songs and then follow his dreams and former girlfriend to New York City from his native Dublin. Through The Guy's and The Girl's (they have no names) music we learn about their individual loves and struggles and their growing love for each other. He feels his music is going nowhere and that he has been abandoned by the women in his life. She has been abandoned by her husband and father to her young daughter. The story is a fractured fairy tale and so the title, Once instead of the Once Upon a Time.
The set for the musical is simple and astonishingly superb. Having designed a set or two in my career, I now there are two things that you can say to your lighting person that will cause them to want to throttle you. The first is “I want to paint the set white” or worse still, “I want the floor to be white.” The second is I want to place a couple of mirrors on the set. While there isn't much white on the set, it is covered in mirrors. The goal of the design was that from every angle on stage some aspect of the instruments being played on stage can be seen. All the instruments are played by the performers. There is no pit orchestra. Hidden in the set is a LED sign that lets the audience know when the Girl speaks with her Czech family. They speak in English while the sign shows the dialog in Czechoslovakian. Only at one point, the reverse occurs. It makes for a stunning set.
Once won 8 Tony Awards including best musical. In addition the music has won not only a Tony, but the Academy Award, a Grammy Award and an Olivier award. It also contains strong language. The music is powerful and moving. Once grabs its audience with its simple story. It is a modern story told through a currency of music, and what is more the story can only happen Once.
Once is playing at the Temple Buell through May18.