This is the second time that the First National Tour of Once has stopped in Minneapolis, with largely the same cast, although this time it's making its home in the slightly more intimate State Theater2. The tagline for this tour is "once is not enough," but for me, thrice is not enough as I would gladly go see it again every night of its brief one-week Minneapolis stay! Perhaps I'm biased - Once is one of my favorite movies and my favorite movie soundtrack, and it introduced me to my favorite musician Glen Hansard. But even without that prior attachment, it's easy to see that Once is something truly special. The music is raw and passionate, performed by a cast of 13 quadruple threats - they act, sing, dance (or at least move in a choreographed way), AND play an instrument. This folk-rock score written by the stars of the movie, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, is not the kind of music you usually hear coming from the Broadway stage; it's quieter, less polished, and more real3. The story is simple and quiet - boy meets girl, boy fixes girl's Hoover, girl encourages boy to record his songs and follow his dreams, boy and girl go on with their separate lives, better for having met one another. John Carney's original story was adapted for the stage by the beautifully twisted mind of playwright Enda Walsh, retaining that unique Irish spirit4. The result as a whole is lovely, poignant, moving, and grand.
|the loveable oddballs of Once|
The set is a pub that never changes, with tables and chairs brought out to represent different settings. Through it all, most of the cast remains on stage, watching from the sidelines. Dingy mirrors surround the stage and offer other angles of the action. The movement and choreography is so beautiful, subtle, and organic. There are no typical "dance numbers," just characters moving organically as the music moves them. Even the scene changes are beautifully and elegantly carried out, as not a moment is wasted.
The show begins before the show begins; the audience is allowed onstage to visit the pub and drink an overpriced beer through a straw. But it's worth it because the cast of musicians soon comes onstage for a traditional Irish session which you're able to witness up close and personal. After the audience is escorted off the stage, the session continues as the cast trades songs, until the musical baton is passed to the guy in the scarf, he belts out an impassioned "Leave," and the house lights go down. Just like that, reality fades and the world of the play takes over, and is so engrossing that it's like a dream. One that I hated to leave.
|Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal|
Once continues at the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis through this weekend only. Whether it's once, twice, thrice, or more, it's a grand experience that's not to be missed.
1. The Cherry and Spoon Music-Theater Spectrum (TM pending): in a musical, characters sing in character, expressing their emotions and moving the plot forward. In a play with music, the music takes place in context, with characters singing in a way that would make sense in real life, and don't sing as the character. If you take the music out of a play with music, it still makes sense, although some of the impact is lost. If you take the music out of a musical, the story no longer makes sense.
2. Find out more about the State, Orpheum, and other local theaters in my "Review of Venues."
3. If you like the music of Once, check out Glen and Mar's follow-up album Strict Joy under their band name The Swell Season, or their solo albums Rhythm and Repose and Muna (among others), or the upcoming album commemorating the 25th anniversary of Glen's band The Frames.
4. For another taste of that unique Irish spirit, go see Guthrie departing Artistic Director Joe Dowling's loving ode to his homeland, the beautifully tragic Juno and the Paycock.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.