The audience was abuzz with excitement for Once: The Musical, which arrives in Auckland, laden with awards for the original 2007 movie and Broadway productions. And that energy is immediately reflected back by the cast, who also act as the orchestra, as soon as you step into the theatre and music washes over you as the cast play through a rousing set of Irish folk songs. Instantly, you feel like you’ve stepped into and become part of an evening in a Dublin pub and many of the audience quite happily joined in, just as you would in Dublin.
Before you know it, the cast slides easily into the Edna Walsh’s script and the focus falls on Guy and Girl, played respectively by Adam Ogle and Lisa Crawley. And while their story unfolds, the rest of the cast move in and out of focus elegantly, often providing a musical interlude as scenes change. The set design by Matt Munford provides fantastic flexibility for the characters and instruments.
The songs and music, especially the Oscar-winning and heart-tugging Falling Slowly, are brilliantly threaded throughout and all of the performances were superb, with almost every song garnering a round of applause. Switching seamlessly between instruments, the cast are all impressive musicians and Josh Clark as Musical Director, and onstage performer, has done a great job underpinning the emotional beats as Guy and Girl rebuild each other. The choreography was subtle and worked perfectly, allowing the cast as a whole to support the story and music with little touches throughout.
The play rests on the shoulders of Guy and Girl, and Adam Ogle and Lisa Crawley are simply stunning in the roles, with both characters shining through and carrying the audience through their journey. Jackie Clarke and Arthur Ranford ably provide great support at pivotal moments for Guy and Girl.
The play and music are a tough challenge but Jesse Peach and the Peach Theatre Company have done a fantastic job and the cast got a deserved standing ovation at the end. Highly recommended, the show is an uplifting and rewarding ride from the moment you step into the music/theatre until you step outside again humming happily to yourself.
Reviewed by Mike Hales.