ONCE-articleLarge20 March 2013, Phoenix Theatre, London

Quietly beautiful. Subtly moving.

Once won 8 Tony’s last year. It’s a bit of a mystery how it’s not selling very well in London at the moment. I think partly it’s to do with its unfortunate clash with the opening of The Book of Mormon which has gotten the whole town talking, partly because its marketing isn’t being done very well (why aren’t they SHOUTING about all the awards it’s won? And the poster looks like a chic lit cover), and actually partly because the text and story isn’t overwhelmingly compelling and convincingly moving – but because the show was so well done in all other aspects, it didn’t really matter.

It’s a great show. You can’t help but be swept away by all the music and singing. Really made me appreciate the beauty and power of music. How it can bring people together and be a powerful vehicle for expressing emotions.

The movement within the musical was great too. Beautiful lyrical movements particularly during scene changes and that one section right before the interval – where all the musicians performed a piece of very simple but effective choreography whilst playing their instruments – stunning. The cellist even had the cello strapped to his waist so that he could dance and play at the same time.

The set was so well done. The backdrop is an Irish pub, and although the actors moved from space to space within the storyline, they never physically left the pub. Except (clever decision!) for a scene where the leading protagonists escaped to overlook the city – here, they climbed some stairs and stood on top of the pub.

The pub itself had a back wall covered with mirrors of all different sizes. So when the performers and musicians were on stage, you’d catch glimpses of their hands playing instruments, of the side view of their faces, of the red-checkered floor, of their looks when they turned around to face the back – really good at producing a small-town everyone-everywhere-and-watching environment. The audience could even climb onto the stage and buy their drinks at the bar during the interval! Go see it!

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