Review: Once The Musical at The Olympia Theatre

once-2016-updated-eventWhen John Carney set out to make a sweet film about a lovelorn musician, he could never have anticipated the juggernaut that it would become. Having won the best original song Oscar in 2007, it also spawned this musical, which has become a triumph in its own right, winning numerous awards including eight Tony Awards.

With a book by acclaimed playwright, Enda Walsh, the show has struck a chord with audiences around the world, so it is unsurprising that it has returned to the Olympia Theatre for another run. The film is extremely simplistic, which you would imagine makes it ideal for theatre, and Walsh has admitted that the story won him over.

The basic story involves Dublin musician, ‘Guy’s’ encounter with a Czech woman (‘Girl’) who needs her Hoover repaired. He discovers that she also plays music, and the pair of them bond over song-writing. However, she has a young child, and her husband is back in her homeland. Meanwhile, he is still pining after his lost love who has emigrated. Believing he should go after his woman, Girl helps him organise a bank loan to record a demo of his work, before flying out to be reunited with his old flame.

In this production, American Sam Cieri takes on the role of Guy, made famous in the film, while Megan Riordan plays Girl. Cieri has a wonderfully gravely voice that is perfectly suited to the show’s soundtrack, and his Dublin accent is spot on. Meanwhile, Riordan is beguiling, and extremely funny, as Girl, and has a warmth about her that immediately draws you in. They have a fantastic chemistry, and their on-stage relationship is totally believable.

They are ably supported by an ensemble cast, who sit on the sidelines waiting for their moments to jump in and out of the additional roles that pepper the story. However, their main role is contributing to the soundtrack. Each actor plays an instrument live on the stage, and this just serves to add to the urgency of the show.

This is not a musical in the traditional sense of the word. There are no ‘jazz hands’ or dance rountines, and the songs aren’t there to move the story along, but rather to articulate what a particular character is going though.

Although confined to a stage space, this really expands on the film, and there is a lot more humour in it than the movie. In fact, there are so many funny moments, that the highly emotive scenes really hit you harder. Above all, there is a real party atmosphere throughout the show, with even the most down-in-the-dumps character using music as an escape.

Uplifting, moving, and hilarious, even those who abhor musical theatre should find merit in this. A wonderful show that will resonate long after you leave the theatre.

Olympia Theatre, Dame Street, Dublin 2, until August 27th

Tickets from €29.50

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