Once is a musical based on the 2007 film of the same name by John Carney. Like the film, music and lyrics were by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, including the Academy Award-winning "Falling Slowly". The book for the musical was written by Enda Walsh. The musical premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2011, before transferring to Broadway in 2012. The production received eleven 2012 Tony Award nominations, and won eight including Best Musical, Best Actor and Best Book. The musical also won the 2012 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical and the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. It has since spawned a London production, with a North American Tour which started on 1 October 2013. In the musical, the cast also serves as the orchestra. A minimalist set is used, including a bar in center stage with chairs lining stage left and right. Exiting cast members simply step to the side of the stage and sit down. They serve as the orchestra from these chairs. The bar is used before the show and at intermission as a working bar for theater patrons.
Once premiered in a workshop at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, in April 2011, before its transfer to New York Theatre Workshop where it made its Off-Broadway debut on 6 December 2011, following previews from 15 November, on a run through 15 January 2012. Under the direction of John Tiffany, the original cast was led by Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti as Guy and Girl, respectively. The production was nominated for Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Choreographer, Outstanding Scenic Design (Bob Crowley), Outstanding Lighting Design (Natasha Katz), Outstanding Sound Design (Clive Goodwin), and Outstanding Lead Actress. The production won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.
The musical then began previews on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre from 28 February 2012 and officially opening on 18 March. Kazee and Milioti repeated their performances from the Off-Broadway cast. The production received eleven Tony Award nominations, winning eight, including Best Musical. It also won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Musical for 2011–12. On 7 October 2014, it was announced that the musical would close 4 January 2015. The production played 1,167 regular performances and 22 previews by closing time.
Dublin/West End (2013–2015)
Following a limited engagement at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre from 22 February until 9 March 2013, starring Declan Bennett (Guy) and Zrinka Cvitešić (Girl), the show made its West End debut at the Phoenix Theatre, London. Previews began 16 March, which was followed by a 9 April opening night. Bennett and Cvitešić reprise their roles from the Dublin run. Bennett and Cvitešić made an appearance on BBC's The Graham Norton Show for the televised show on 31 May 2013. Prior to an interview, they performed "Falling Slowly". On 15 January 2014, the show was extended to 4 July 2015. Arthur Darvill replaced Bennett as Guy on 17 March 2014, reprising the role after an acclaimed run on Broadway, and continued in the role until 10 May 2014. Cvitešić also left her role as Girl on 10 May. David Hunter and Jill Winternitz then played Guy and Girl respectively. Ronan Keating took over the lead role from 17 November 2014 to 21 March 2015, when the production closed.
U.S. National Tours
1st National Tour (2013-15)
On 1 October 2013 the first North American national tour launched in Providence, Rhode Island at the Providence Performing Arts Center. Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal played Guy and Girl, respectively. The tour ran through December 2015.
2nd National Tour (2016-17)
A non-Equity North American national tour started in January 2016 in Utica, New York, and ran through April 2017, starring Sam Cieri and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, who would go on to reprise the role of Girl in SpeakEasy Stage Company's 2019 production in Boston.
3rd National Tour (2019)
On 7 July 2019, it was announced that the show would once again tour the US beginning on 22 August in Ft. Myers, Florida and continuing into 2020. Jack Gerhard played Guy opposite Mariah Lotz as Girl. Original Broadway and Off-Broadway cast member, J. Michael Zygo, was the production's director and musical director. The tour closed early on 23 December 2019, and all subsequent tour dates were cancelled.
The first Australian production premiered at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne on 26 September 2014, and ran through 1 February 2015. Tom Parsons and Madeleine Jones played Guy and Girl. It was presented in association with the Melbourne Theatre Company.
The first non-English production by Seensee Company, premiered on 14th, December 2014, scheduled to run through 29 March 2015. Do-hyun Yoon and Chang-hee Lee play Guy, Mi-do Jeon and Ji-yeon Park play Girl.
A Canadian company opened 10 February and played through 28 June 2015 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre. The production starred Ian Lake as Guy and Trish Lindström as Girl. It garnered seven Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations in the Musical Theatre Division and won three, for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Ensemble and Outstanding Performance - Female for Lindström.
In March 2015, it was announced that Once would return to Dublin. It was scheduled to play a limited run from 4 July to 22 August at the Olympia Theatre. The cast included Tom Parsons as Guy and Megan Riordan as Girl. On 28 July, it was then announced that Once had been extended and would run until 12 September. On 4 December 2015 it was announced that Once would return to Dublin and would play at the Olympia Theatre from 2 July – 27 August 2016. In 2017, the musical returned again to the Olympia Theatre from 30 June – 26 August.
After the success of the previous Korean production, cast members comprised from the Dublin, London, Australian and Canadian Once companies played on The Charlotte Theatre from 22 September to 1 November.
The Darlinghurst Theatre Co. production was opened to critical acclaim at the Eternity Playhouse in Sydney from 26 June to 23 July, where it sold out its entire season as well as its return season from 30 July to 4 August. It also played at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre from 24 to 28 July. The show was directed by Richard Carroll and starred Toby Francis as Guy, Stefanie Caccamo as Girl and Victoria Falconer as Reza and the musical director.
Buenos Aires (2019)
This production (locally translated Una vez en la vida) debuted in Buenos Aires at the Metropolitan Sura Theatre on 12 April 2019 and starring Eliseo Barrionuevo and Paula Reca. The production closed on 4 August 2019.
UK Tour (2019-2020)
In June 2019 it was announced that Once will embark on its first ever UK Tour featuring Daniel Healy as Guy and Emma Lucia as Girl. The tour will open at the Ashcroft Playhouse, Fairfield Halls in December 2019.
- Act I
A thirty-something Dublin busker (identified only as "Guy") sings a heartfelt ballad of unrequited love on a Dublin street, accompanying himself on guitar ("Leave"). He then puts his guitar in its case and turns to leave without it; but a young Czech woman (identified only as "Girl"), who has been listening to him sing, approaches. She asks numerous personal questions about his songs; he replies that he wrote most of them for a girlfriend who broke up with him and moved to New York City. He is giving up on his music because the memories of his defunct relationship are too painful; he now works as a vacuum cleaner repairman in his father's shop. Girl responds that she has a vacuum that "does not suck", and asks him to fix it. She offers to pay for the repair by playing piano for him. Over his protests, she snatches the sheet music for a new song from his jacket. Reluctantly, Guy picks up his guitar and they play the song together ("Falling Slowly"). Girl suggests that he could win his old girlfriend back by singing her that song. Guy brushes this off, but Girl reminds him that he now owes her a vacuum repair, so they head to his father's shop ("The North Strand"). As Guy fixes the vacuum, Girl becomes acquainted with his father, who seems to like her. Once the vacuum is repaired, Guy impulsively invites Girl to his bedroom, above the shop. They are clearly attracted to each other, but when he attempts to kiss her she stops him and leaves ("The Moon"). The next day he apologises, and they write, rehearse and record songs together. Girl introduces Guy to her family, including her young daughter, Ivanka ("Ej, Pada, Pada, Rosicka"). After Guy leaves, Girl plays one of his songs on the piano, substituting her own lyrics as she thinks of him ("If You Want Me"). The next morning Girl tells Guy that she has arranged a meeting with a banker ("Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy"). To persuade the bank manager to approve a loan — which would enable Guy to take his music to New York — Guy plays him a song ("Say It to Me Now"). The banker is impressed with his talent, approves the loan, and adds that he can play guitar as well. He plays a song for them ("Abandoned in Bandon"), and though he is not a very good singer, they invite him to play in the band. The following night at a night club, Guy tells Girl that she has convinced him that his musical career is worth pursuing. Good, she replies, because it is open mic night at the club, and she has signed him up to perform as "The Hoover Man". He is reluctant, but eventually takes the stage. As he sings, it seems that he is now singing to Girl, not his ex-girlfriend ("Gold").
- Act II
During band practice, one of the musicians gets into an argument with the bank manager; he opposes capitalism, he says, despite the fact that he owns the shop where they are rehearsing. Guy and Girl retreat to a hill overlooking the city where the two share a brief, tender moment. Girl tells Guy, in Czech, that she loves him — but when he asks her to translate, she replies, "It looks like rain". Guy realizes that he has fallen in love with Girl, and wonders how he will live without her when he moves to New York ("Sleeping"). The next day the band records a demo for a major record label ("When Your Mind's Made Up"). After receiving praise for their performance, the band members take a break. Girl remains at the piano, and thinking she is alone, plays one of her own compositions that reveals the depth of her feelings for Guy ("The Hill"). Guy, who has been listening, compliments her on her song. He suggests that she and Ivanka move to New York with him, because they clearly have feelings for each other that they cannot ignore. Girl answers angrily that he cannot feel that way. Incredulous, Guy asks why; Girl replies that her husband — Ivanka's father — is trying to reconcile with her, and for the sake of their daughter she must consider it ("It Cannot Be About That"). The following morning the band gathers at the hill to voice their hopes for success with the impending album ("Gold (Acapella)"). Guy asks Girl to spend his last night in Dublin with him; she demurs, because it would only result in "hanky-panky", which is a "bad idea"; but ultimately she agrees to come to the vacuum shop. Back at the shop, Guy plays the demo for his father. Impressed and moved, he gives Guy money to help him get settled in New York. Then Guy, encouraged by Girl, calls his ex-girlfriend in New York, who is happy about his imminent arrival, and seems willing to give their relationship another try. A few days later Girl comes home to find a piano with a bright red bow on it — a gift from Guy. She sheds a few tears, then sits at the piano and sings; as Guy, in his New York apartment, sings the same song ("Falling Slowly (Reprise)").
Principal roles and original casts
Notable Broadway cast replacements
- Arthur Darvill – Guy
- Laura Dreyfuss, Joanna Christie – Girl
- Carlos Valdes - Andrej
- Katrina Lenk, Claire Wellin - Réza
- Laurel Griggs - Ivanka
Notable West End cast replacements
"Once", the titular song from the film, was cut from the musical, but was performed by the cast of the Broadway production during special curtain calls, such as at Cristin Milioti, Elizabeth A. Davis, and Will Connolly's final performance, and when Markéta Irglová visited.
Brantley later reviewed the Broadway production, also in The New York Times, writing:
Original Broadway production
The production was nominated in the Musical Theatre Division of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards