Last night, I finally got the chance to see the hit musical Once. Once has been riding a wave of popularity on both stage and screen for years now, and I've had the soundtrack on my iPod for nearly a decade, but I somehow never actually managed to see either the film or the play. Now I am happy to say that this oversight on my part has been rectified. I was completely charmed by the production and thoroughly recommend it to anyone looking for a beautiful story about love and art without any of the usual rom-com clichés.
I realize that many of you out there have already seen the movie and might not be inclined to check out the same story in theatrical form, but the play itself is an experience of its own. Whether you're an old fan or are hearing about Once for the first time, here are three reasons you should go check out this particular production on stage in Toronto right now.
1. THE MUSIC
Seeing Once live is like going to the theatre and to a concert at the same time. All of the actors are also musicians who play the production's entire score live onstage throughout the play. Unlike most big musicals where the orchestra is hidden below decks, in this production the music itself takes centre stage alongside the story. It takes some truly talented performers to sing, dance, act, and play a whole range of instruments at the same time. It's a joy to watch. I was especially impressed by Jon-Alex MacFarlane who danced an entire number while carrying (and playing) the cello. The play starts at 8pm, but if you show up anytime after 730pm you can watch the cast perform song after song in their own mini-concert. You can even head onstage with them to hear the music up close and pick up a drink from the set's working bar.
2. THE CAST
After a touring company performed Once to sold-out crowds in Toronto in 2013, this version has been put togehter by Mirvish Productions with an all Canadian cast. For the first time, you can see a performance of Once which highlights nothing but Canadian talent. Since many big musicals in Toronto are performed by touring companies, we don't always get the opportunity to see our local talent take the stage in these types of shows. Stratford Festival veterans Ian Lake and Trish Lindstrom have stepped into the iconic leading roles and are surrounded by some of Canada's most talented musical theatre actors including Brendan Wall, Brandon McGibbon, Laurie Murdoch, and Donna Garner.
3. THE THEATRICALITY
Once the play is nothing like Once the movie. I confessed that I haven't actually seen the movie, so you may be wondering how I know that these are two completely different incarnations of this story. The truth is that the stage production embraces theatricality through abstract staging and heightened movement sequences that just wouldn't be possible on film. The theatricality of this interpretation is unique to live performance and evokes the spirit of Once on a visceral level. This physical interpretation of the story reminds you of the power music has to get right inside your soul.
So if you're a fan of the movie, or if (like me) you just keep hearing how great it is, get on down to the Ed Mirvish theatre to check out this very special (and Canadian!) take on the story. The show runs until May 31st; click here for tickets and info.
PS: For those of you who don't live anywhere near Toronto, Once is currently on tour in the United States. Click here for the schedule.