NYC Review: ‘Once’

once

This January, members of the Green Room Reviews staff traveled to New York City for a week-long immersion program as part of their studies in the Goldring Arts Journalism Master’s Program at Syracuse University. Throughout the trip, they attended a variety of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Here is one of the Green Room Reviewers’ thoughts on a show that caught their eye in the Big Apple.

NYC Review by Nick DeSantis

The audience of Once was invited to drink in the pub on the Bernard B. Jacobs stage only a few feet away from the action. A group of musicians—slapping a wood crate for percussion and playing the guitar, piano, fiddle, tambourine and ukulele—jammed on Irish music.

The show hadn’t even started.

The intimate surprise performance established an early, strong musical communion between the characters, as well as the indispensible role of music within the show as a conduit for emotion and personal honesty.

Based on the 2006 Irish cult film of the same name, the loose narrative revolves around a Czech pianist known only as ‘Girl’ (a scene-stealing Cristin Milioti), who helps an Irish guitarist ‘Guy’ (a somewhat stiff Steve Kazee) pursue his musical dreams in Ireland while denying their budding love for one another. The love story is somewhat saccharine and without heft, but no matter: it serves merely as the vehicle for one spellbinding musical performance after another.

The sincerity of Guy, Girl and the other characters lies not in their words, but in the lyrics of their songs. During the seductively introspective “If You Want Me,” Girl dances alone in headphones with eyes closed, belting out “You know I really try/To be a better one to satisfy you, for you’re everything to me.” In contrast to her publicly adamant denial of romantic feelings for Guy, Girl’s true longing for him is laid bare in a rousing, well-choreographed song and dance performance that proves to be one of many highlights of the show.

With songs ranging from the Irish-tinged “The North Strand” to sparse guitar and piano numbers such as “Falling Slowly,” the performances during the 2012 Tony Award winner for “Best Musical” are infectious. Milioti, Kazee and company will enthrall you with compositions that quickly transcend Once’s featherweight plot.

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