Once at the Phoenix Theatre
Once is a musical that is certainly no stranger to awards. Based on an Oscar-winning Irish musical film of the same name, the cast must almost be sick of award shows after the eight Tony Awards and the Grammy Award that the musical has won in the last two years. It’s not difficult to see why the show has received such critical acclaim – the electric cast bring a seemingly endless energy to the production, led by the magnificent Zrinka Cvitešić.
Cvitešić plays the main Czech female character with an infectious charisma and ferocious gung-ho attitude that keeps the audience invigorated. Her positivity is polarised by Arthur Darvill’s (RADA-trained and best known for playing Rory Williams in Doctor Who) character, a broken-hearted local Dublin boy who has given up on his dream of becoming a musician. They form a bond through a chance meeting involving an amusing dialogue about vacuum cleaners – their development as characters keeps the audience on their toes. Darvill undoubtedly steals the stage, both with his acting and singing, but is complemented by the rest of the strong cast – especially the fantastic Jez Unwin, whose skilled acting and side-splitting sense of humour lend a colourful personality even to the role of bank manager.
As the show goes on, the characters’ personalities become richer as more is revealed about those on the periphery – including Andre (played by West End debutant Mathew Hamper), a Czech fast food store manager with big ambitions, as well as Billy (musician and also West End newbie Tim Prottey-Jones), a music store owner with a tough exterior whose attempts to cling onto his Spanish heritage result in some horrendously funny mispronounciations. However, the depth and ability of Cvitešić’s Girl, the female lead, is what shines through as her character reveals a complex past behind her apparently resilient exterior.
With plenty of laughs and catchy tunes, Once is an uplifting musical that deserves its array of accolades. The talented cast expertly portray the individual personalities of each character, while the intimate setting of the Phoenix Theatre makes this a very relaxed affair. Once is well worth seeing, if only for Cvitešić’s almost scarily compelling performance. And if you’ve ever wanted to get up on stage in the West End, the stage is transformed into a bar during the intermission…
Photos: Brinkhoff Moêgenburg
Once is at Phoenix Theatre until July 2015. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.