Wow. Once is my favourite show I’ve seen in quite a while – and that’s saying something.
Once meets Guy (Arthur Darvill) busking in the street but a chance meeting ends up with Girl stops him from abandoning his guitar and giving up on music, in return for him fixing her hoover. The ensuing friendship between them ends up with Guy finding a new life in both himself and his music.
After seeing Darvill (best known for playing Rory in Doctor Who) perform with the Once Broadway cast at the Tony’s last year, I just knew I had to see him in it in his eight week run in the West End. He did not disappoint one bit. Even Frazer described him as a “surprisingly good singer” and loved his performance, and he’s a complete musical cynic.
The passion he threw into the songs – each and every one, but especially Leave and When Your Mind’s Made Up – made it easy for the audience to relate to his emotion, and it genuinely didn’t feel like he was acting. His moody, reluctant interactions with other characters were also spot-on, and often very funny.
Speaking of funny: Sophie Reid played Girl on Tuesday night (instead of Zrinka Cvitešić) and you never would have guessed she was an understudy. The first several scenes in particular were punctured with humour and it was largely down to her delivery. Her voice was also very sweet, although her solo The Hill was probably the slowest point of the show.
However much we can celebrate the leads, Once would be nothing without its ensemble. It’s refreshing to see a show where the cast sing, act and play all the instruments themselves with totally smooth transitions. It just shows how talented this group of people are. They provided so much humour themselves, but also knew when to take a step back and let the scene breathe.
The pre-show music from the ensemble with audience members at the bar onstage added a different atmosphere to the norm of a West End show, and it was something quite special.
I’m sure it’s been repeated many times before, but once was certainly not enough for this show.