Theatre Review: Once The Musical, Olympia Theatre

Frances Winston really enjoyed Once The Musical, on at The Olympia Theatre in Dublin – this time with Irish actors in lead roles.

A summer run of Once The Musical is becoming something of a tradition at this stage – this is the third time we’ve been treated to it – and it is the sort of show that lends itself perfectly to this time of year.

The Dublin setting means that Once is a go-to show for tourists, while natives of the city just enjoy seeing this literal love-song to their hometown. When I saw it last year, I thoroughly enjoyed it, however, my bugbear was in the casting of non-Irish actors in the leading roles. After all, this island has produced a wealth of talent (this is even referenced in the show) so I refused to believe that there were no Irish actors that could fill the roles.

Either the producers listened to me, or they just wanted to give audiences a truly authentic experience, but this time around, the Once boasts a completely Irish cast, which I have to admit is a big selling point for me. Alongside many returning cast-members from last year’s show, Brian Gilligan and Niamh Perry take on the role of Guy and Girl.

Unlike many stage adaptations of movies, this actually manages to expand the world of the film. Girl is definitely a driving-force here, moving all the action forward. Also characters that are only mentioned in the film feature as living, breathing entities here. And these actors work for their money. Each performer also doubles up as a musician, and all the songs are performed live on the stage, which really adds a fantastic energy to Once.

The basic premise of the melancholy love-story between guy and girl is still there, but here it feels like it has a lot more depth to it. This is helped by fantastic performances from all involved, and an extremely witty script (shout-out to Phelim Drew as Billy, who made the audience laugh pretty much every time he opened his mouth, and who has some of the best lines).

Writer Enda Walsh has thoughtfully adapted John Carney’s original story, while really putting his own stamp on it. He portrays real Dublin characters that we all know and recognise, and like I said, Once is a love-song to the city as much as a love-story. Throw in some fantastic music written by the movie’s original stars, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, and Once becomes a truly uplifting joyous theatrical experience.

This is one of those shows where everything just comes together and works, from the set to the music, to the performances to the lighting, to the script to the choreography, and everything in-between. There is a reason it swept the boards at the Tony Awards, and it is a truly marvellous evening’s entertainment.

If you get there early you can even be part of the action, as they open a bar on the Olympia’s stage, where the audience can enjoy a drink and a bit of a hooley with the characters, before the show starts proper.

Once The Musial should definitely be on any ‘Things to do in Dublin’ list.

Once The Musical

Olympia Theatre, Dame Street, Dublin 2

Runs until August 26th

Evening shows – doors 7pm, show 8pm

Matinee shows – doors 2pm, show 3pm

Tickets from €25

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The new LGBT magazine; available online, for download and on podcast. It's time for another view.
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