This weekend I took a trip to the Phoenix Theatre to see the musical Once, I have already seen it but as many know, I’m prone to going back to shows! In my opinion, an excuse isn’t needed to want to go back to a show like this.
This specific visit was to see David Hunter in the lead role of Guy as I’d heard great things about him, wanted to see the show again anyway and wanted to see him. I was also really looking forward to seeing Zrinka Cvitesic as Girl again however she was off the show, and her understudy was on holiday so we got to see her 2nd cover Christina Tedders perform for the second time as the lead which was really exciting for her!
Going to this show is definitely a unique experience for most theatre-goers, when you walk into the stalls you’re immediately greeted by the stage and set open and available to go up onto – they have a bar on the stage where you can purchase drinks and along with it get a souvenir Once cup! I won’t spoil what happens on stage before the show but I’d recommend going up there if you see the show, that’s all!
Once is a musical based on a film of the same name; it tells the story of an Irish busker and a Czech girl, how they meet and how they help each other over the course of a week. The show is full of beautiful music both upbeat and mellow, you can’t deny that at least one of the songs will strike a resonance within you if you see the show! Not only is the music fantastic, but it’s performed by an impeccable cast who do pretty much everything in the show – they act (multiple roles really!), they play the music, they dance, they help with scene changes, quadruple threats at the least! Their talent isn’t questionable, especially with the variety of accents that they successfully pull off not only in dialogue but in song, singing in English and Czech… I could go on forever about how talented this cast is!
Generally I’m content with seeing understudies, I don’t mind at all whereas some people will kick up a fuss if they aren’t seeing the principle leads. I have to just say this – understudies are hired for a reason, they still go through an audition process like everyone else, they aren’t selected at random – so they will not be bad performers! They may not be to your taste and that’s fair enough but please be polite when seeing u/s’s! Rant over ha! The only concern I had with David and Christina was the accents, because they would need to successfully speak in an Irish or Czech accent, that’s no easy task! Turns out I didn’t need to worry whatsoever. Both of them sounded spot on, not once did they falter, and their singing is absolutely beautiful too.
The set of this show fascinates me due to the way they utilise the space. Essentially it’s one set with a bar in the back and chairs lining the edge for the cast to sit on when they aren’t centre-stage or off-stage which is rare. Mirrors of all sizes line the arc of the back-drop and are my favourite part of the set as you can view the scenes in them but in fragments. You’ll look in one mirror to see one person, look in another to see another little part of the set, it’s such clever staging to think not only of how the audience are watching head on but in all these other ways. As I mentioned, the cast help move set and this is through two doors on either side of the stage that help with the ‘bar feel’. It’s genius choreography with how they all move together and very visually clever; simple but effective.
One warning is that you might, might get a little bit emotional in this show… I’m usually ok, but the first time I saw this show I literally felt a bit heartbroken for days after, and the second time seeing it just made me bawl like a newborn (awkward when you’re in the front row giving a standing ovation crying and the cast is stood maybe 20cm in front of you, if that (the stage is very close)) which just proves what a job everyone in the cast did. The ovation they received last night was whole-heartedly deserved.
I don’t want to say much more in case of spoilers, however this is one show I would definitely recommend to someone who asked me what to see in the West End; it’s a gem of a show that will leave an impact with an incredibly talented cast and genius set.