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Once on Broadway tickets
Once on Broadway show information
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Book by Enda Walsh. Music and Lyrics by Glen Hansard. Music and Lyrics by Markéta Irglová. Dir. John Tiffany. With Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti. 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.
Who would have guessed that a shoegazing indie flick set in Dublin would form the basis of a Broadway hit musical? But that’s what happened with the extraordinary Once, winner of the 2012 Tony Award for best new musical (and seven other Tonys). Originally released in 2005, Once is the story of guitar-strumming street musician Guy (Glen Hansard) and the Czech immigrant Girl (Markéta Irglová), who feels drawn to Guy’s heartbreak-filled songs. Girl becomes a muse to Guy, accompanying him on piano and goading him to record a demo. Will they fall in love—or at least hook up? Don’t expect your usual rock romance. The original movie is understated and shaggy, with a handful of soulful, angsty tunes and foggy, grey Dublin for a clammy background. What book writer Enda Walsh and director John Tiffany have done is open up the story, adding comical supporting characters and wrapping it all up in a freshly theatrical and unpretentious package. Hansard and Irglová wrote extra tunes to fill out the score, which is the most radio-ready Broadway has heard in years. The original cast of Once is also a big part of its success: As Guy, Tony-winner Steve Kazee combines hunky good lucks and boyish vulnerability. Cristin Milioti finds the pain beneath Girl’s chilly quirk. And both have gorgeous, achy pop voices. For a couple looking for a night of New York theater, it’s a great date show. And for the show’s serial attendees, Once is never enough.—David Cote
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 W 45th St
between Broadway and Eighth Ave
Subway: A, C, E to 42nd St–Port Authority; N, Q, R, 42nd St S, 1, 2, 3, 7 to 42nd St–Times Sq
How to get to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Once on Broadway review
Sometimes, you fall hard on the first date. Maybe the second. But the worst is when you want to love a person badly, but each time you connect, you leave more doubtful and dissatisfied. That’s my unenviable position in regard to Once, the often glorious and inspiring, but also twee and attenuated musical that moved to Broadway after a run downtown at New York Theatre Workshop. The moody, romantic piece is based on the 2006 indie film, and in the transfer from screen to stage, it has gained about 40 minutes, a few extra tunes and a great deal of gratuitous quirk. Many are besottedly serenading Once, but I just can’t.
To be sure, there’s no shortage of talent on the Bernard B. Jacobs stage, where audience members can gather for an informal preshow jam with the cheery, instrument-playing ensemble. The jolly village vibe continues throughout: John Tiffany stages the action in a unit pub set, with cast members watching from the sidelines. It’s a neat concept, but it undercuts the material’s poignant themes of social disconnection and stasis. Still, as the unconsummated lovers, Irish busker Guy and Czech immigrant Girl, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti have terrific chemistry. They sing the score’s plangent folk ballads (by the film’s original actor-composers, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) with heartbreaking openness.
But for all that, book writer Enda Walsh’s belabored humor, based mostly on lazily sketched supporting characters, begins to grate. And the last half hour’s mopey pacing turns what was wistful understatement into maudlin manipulativeness. There’s simply not enough narrative or emotional content to support a two-act structure. Ironically, if I had spent less time with this fascinating creature, then it might have actually swept me away.—David Cote
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Follow David Cote on Twitter: @DavidCote