Finally, after six months of changing our minds, changing dates and waiting for the date to arrive, I took my sister to see Once – The Musical in London for her birthday treat. Only six months late, we were forced to postpone the trip after work and other commitments/holidays got in the way but it worked out pretty well because it meant combining a pre-Christmas treat with a last minute Christmas shopping trip and some sister-sister time before she jets off to New York in January.
I knew nothing about the musical, a strange feeling after always seeing ones that I had known the storyline of such as Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot and Chicago, but it was refreshing to go to a show with no expectations. A new musical, the show has only been in the West End a short time but has already secured eight 2012 Tony Awards, and promised a truly original Broadway experience. And original it certainly was!
The show has taken up residence in the Phoenix Theatre, on Charing Cross Road, which is a stunning little theatre with a really intimate and cosy atmosphere. I had been stuck between buying seats in the dress circle or the stalls but had plumped for the former in the end and I was glad I had – we had a perfect view overlooking the stage and I think we saw more than if we had been sitting downstairs. The theatre was one of the smallest I have been to and this really added to the show because it was a lively production with lots of music played live by the cast to give the impression of an Irish band playing in a pub.
Having been to Ireland and seen live bands playing in small but cosy pubs to raucous audiences, I can say that the cast really did well in creating the vibe and getting the audience clapping and cheering. They were full of boundless energy, foot-stomping and amazing talent on their huge range of instruments – this production really was like none I had seen before – and trust me, I’ve been to quite a few now!
The story is described as:
Featuring an impressive ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments on stage, ONCE tells the enchanting tale of a Dublin street musician who’s about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. As the chemistry between them grows, his music soars to powerful new heights… but their unlikely connection turns out to be deeper and more complex than your everyday romance. Emotionally captivating and theatrically breathtaking, ONCE draws you in from the very first note and never lets go. It’s an unforgettable story about going for your dreams and the power of music to connect us all.
With a boyfriend who has a huge, Irish family, each get-together is like this production, with plenty of drinks and dancing to amazing, lively, vibrant music – this was a fantastic production with a heartfelt and funny story of complicated love. The sort of story that gets us all and leaves us rooting for the couple to fall in love. It was a much simpler story than other musicals I have seen, but I felt that worked well in placing the emphasis on the musical talents of the very small cast and their comedy – which had the audience in hysterics. I thought it was an especially nice touch that the cats were already on stage and playing various songs to the audience as they waiting for the show to begin – this helped warm up the crowd and gave us a little more bang for our buck.
I to have to say though, that I personally felt the final few scenes of the production became confusing as the two main characters jumped from breaking up and separating to suddenly getting together and that this didn’t quite make sense. I was watching intently, but both myself and my sister felt slightly confused by the ending – but still happy it all worked out!
It was a brilliant production and I would heartily recommend it to anyone, particularly those who like a good love story, love Irish music and accents, or who just love a good show and fancy seeing something new and different. Theatre tickets are always a great present and they really are worth every penny because the shows are spectacular!
After the show, we headed to Oxford Circus to see the Christmas lights and to do a final bit of shopping, all washed down with the best Italian I have had for a very long time – king prawn pappardelle in a spinach, cream and chilli sauce at Vapianos- YUM!