"You've got to love Dublin for dreamin', 'ey boys?"
What would you do if you had only one chance for true love?
Once tells the story of just that: a brief but inopportune moment when two people fall deeply into a love they cannot consummate. It's the best-worst kind of heartbreaking, stealing small pieces of your hope for Guy and Girl to just be together until eventually disappointing that hope in the way that only real life unrequited love can. Once's resistance to the happy ending is its greatest strong suit, and as hard as it is to watch, it's a lovely tale and totally relate-able to anyone who's had a broken heart (probably all of us).
Fans of the film may find some differences in the stage version, but it still retains its winsome charm. The music is really the star of the show here, almost all of it haunting and lyrical. "Falling Slowly" is the most famous track from Once, and it's expectedly lovely, but other tracks (such as "If You Want Me" are equally, if not more, winning.
The voices (and talents, as all of the actors play their own instruments live) are across the board great in this show; my biggest issue with Once in fact is that they sing as an ensemble so rarely (it's magic when they all ratchet up). Stuart Ward (Guy) and Dani de Waal (Girl) do an excellent job of anchoring the cast, he with a raw rock growl and she with an almost mystical, lilting Eastern European soprano.
The set and costumes are appropriately spare, with one single large mirror in the back of the bar-set providing a 180 degree vantage point for some of the more complex choreography. In addition to providing an extra perspective, the mirror almost seemed to suggest it was reflecting the audience's experiences into the show, tying all of us together in Once. It's an appropriate metaphor for the equal parts of sadness and joy that love can bring to all of us, that there is always more than one point of view. Once reminds us of all of those things, and it's a great reminder to tell people you love them - you never know when they may have to leave.