Show’s emotional strength in music

The 2012 winner of the Tony for Best Musical has come to the Fox Theatre and has audiences “falling slowly” in love with it.

Once tells the story of a young, “stopped” Irish musician, Guy, who encounters a charmingly-enthusiastic Czech woman, Girl. Together they discover their musical, and romantic, compatibility with the help of  a misfit group of musician friends. Girl struggles with her true feelings for Guy, while dealing with her estranged husband and father of her child, who has left her in Dublin to return to the Czech Republic.

The story is predictable and sentimental. There are some exaggerated, idiosyncratic sidekicks thrown into the mix.

Yet, underneath all the clichés,  the yearning and raw emotions of the characters  is evident, especially with the aid of music, creating more dimensional characters. Clever character quips also constantly keeps the audience in stitches, contrasting the seriousness of the story.

The music in this show is outstanding. Played directly on stage in front of the audience by the multi-talented cast instead of in a pit, the musical numbers are reminiscent of experiencing concerts in  Irish bars.

This performance provides the unique opportunity for the audience to visit the set before the performance starts to see the instruments and set up close. As the only set is a bar setting, audience members could purchase water and alcohol on stage before the show started.

Once has rather clever staging with the use of only one set to show off many different locations and many clean transitions involving the cast as stage hands.

The Czech accent sported by some of the characters in the play seemed a bit off and occasionally got lost during some of the longer lines.  Some of the dance numbers seemed out of place during certain scenes.

Once is a romantic, often understated musical that finds strength in its music.

Our Take: 5/5